10 of My Favorite Leading Pentecostal Scholars

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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?

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Andrew is an acquisitions editor for Seedbed books and director of online resources for Seedbed. When not editing he enjoys design, photography, and gardening. He lives with his family in Tennessee.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Great list. I would add Dr. Michael Brown in that list. Definitely geared towards the laity, but i would say he has more influence over the “Charisma” crowd than any of the above mentioned.

  2. J. Rodman Williams. I had got to meet him and spend time with him in his home office and chat many years ago. We talked over Cokes & Fritos for about two hours. He went to be with the Lord a couple of years ago.

  3. I had Dr. Amos Young as a professor for my last class in Divinity School. He certainly has an amazing mind and a humble attitude to go along with it!

  4. You could add Wayne Grudem to the list. I’m fond of Keener, having both works you mention, plus his two volumes on John’s Gospel. I also respect Fee, having a number of his works.

    However, I must make special mention of Jack Deere. Deere was associated with the so-called “Kansas City Prophets”, to include Paul Cain especially, who is described as a “true prophet” on the Dedication page of Surprised by the Voice of God. Cain was later discredited (you can look up the particulars on the net, if you’re not aware). In addition, I have what I feel to be very
    strong evidence that something is very amiss with a purported prophecy that Cain delivered to an audience including Deere, with the ‘word’ being for Deere. I have transcripts which show quite a bit of contradictory details between the account Cain gives on the audio (again, Deere was in the audience, and the ‘word’ was directed to Deere) and the account by Deere himself in the above referenced book (p 176).

    I have the details, including the actual audio recording of Cain’s voice providing this ‘prophecy’ with which to compare to the Deere work above at the link below under the “Open Vision of Jack Deere’s Mother and Related Prophecy”.

    I’ve been researching serious problems within what I term “hyper-charismaticism” (to distinguish from traditional Pentecostalism/charismaticism) as an apologetic for a while now, and I’ve researched Mike Bickle’s Kansas City Fellowship, of whom both John Wimber and Jack Deere were an integral part at one point, at some length.

    Here’s the link: http://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/in-exonerating-paul-cain-is-the-%e2%80%98aberrant-practices%e2%80%99-document-invalidated/

  5. How about Frank Macchia, who teaches at Vanguard, and formerly at South Eastern. He has published Baptized in the Spirit, and Justified in the Spirit.

  6. Hmm.. no women. You couldn’t think of one? Estrelda Alexander, Margaret Poloma, Kimberly Alexander, Cheryl Johns, just to name a few.

  7. Great list! Some of my favorite people are on this list, including my prior spiritual formation advisor and my dissertation advisor 🙂

  8. This is a great list. Dr. Fee’s research is invaluable . However, the book that rocked my world concerning the Holy Spirit was The Flame of Love by the late, great Clark Pinnock. What a gentle giant he was, a generous theologian whose written work flowed in like manner to Moltman’s. He was Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at McMaster’s Divinity. I miss his work.

  9. Nailed to Andrew! Thanks for sharing and adding to my knowledge of Pentecostal scholars; some of these I was unfamiliar with.

  10. Nailed to Andrew! Thanks for sharing and adding to my knowledge of Pentecostal scholars; some of these I was unfamiliar with.

  11. I just stumbled into the Seedbed site. I worked as a grad assistant at ORU and had access to their entire Pentecostal/Charismatic library, which is one of the largest in the nation. As a “conservative” Charismatic, I would love to see Dr. Jack Hayford included in this list. Dr. Hayford is the general editor of the bestselling Spirit-Filled Life Bible and did a great job in collaborating well over 50 principle voices in the P/C tradition. Many of the contributors were pastors as well as theologians, so their input was highly practical and pastoral in nature. In addition, Dr. John Spurling of Kings University in Dallas (Gateway Church) would also be a great addition.

  12. I would definitely recommend Dr. Jack Hayford to the distinguished list because of several of his resources that he’s produced: Hayford’s Bible Handbook, Spirit-Filled Life Bible and The Beauty of Spiritual Language.

  13. I was surprised that your list didn’t include Donald Gee, probably best known for “Concerning Spiritual Gifts,” was an Pentecostal writer and speaker. His pulpit and writing commentaries contributed greatly to his British Assemblies of God. I have found his writing to be some of the best concerning the Pentecostal movement.

    The list you have acquired through this seedbed post, is definitely going to be a great help in my own study.

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