The spreading flame: Pentecostal scholarship goes global


Well, the history blog over at http://www.christianitytoday.com is singing its swan song. This week’s article, a reflection from me on Pentecostal scholars and the global reach of recent Pentecostal research, is the penultimate post.

R.I.P. to Christianity Today International’s commitment to journalism on Christian history. Sad, but I could see it coming when they axed Christian History & Biography as a print magazine last year. And the magazine’s sister website will soon follow, though CTI will still make back issues of the magazine available through www.ctlibrary.com.

Anyhow, here’s my post:

The Spreading Flame: Pentecostal Scholarship Goes Global

by Chris Armstrong | March 16, 2010 4:22 PM

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In the mid-nineties, when I was almost finished with my studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, my adviser, Dr. Garth Rosell, took me aside for a “career chat.” He hazarded a prediction: “In the coming years, young Pentecostal and charismatic students will do well in graduate studies and make an impact in the academy.” I was one of those young charismatics (though a late bloomer—already a decade older than many of my classmates). And I wondered whether Dr. Rosell was right. I hoped so. Though I still had all sorts of questions about the value of graduate study for the church, I had plunged into this academic world (and its ubiquitous dark reality of student debt) with both feet. It was becoming my world, and I hoped I could make my way in it.

I was that oddball creature: a “charismatic bookworm.” For ten years after my conversion in 1985, I was formed as a Christian in the fires of Pentecostal experience. But despite the hand-raising, tongues-singing exuberance of that experience, I was no natural-born extrovert (I probably could have used this book). It took me quite some time to struggle out of my bookish shell and experience the “joy of the Lord” so evident at the interdenominational Rock Church in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

Even in the midst of the intensive religious experience and activism so characteristic of that movement, I struggled with a welter of questions: What was the salvific meaning, if any, of these experiences I was having? Their biblical background? Who had discovered them first in the church, and how did they become what they were in the charismatic culture of the 1980s? What about the many other quirks and habits of this charismatic culture? How could I negotiate the myriad claims made by visiting and TV evangelists? How did such claims and experiences relate to Scripture? To the historical foundations of the church worldwide?

Those sorts of questions brought me to a decision.

Continue reading The Spreading Flame

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2 responses to “The spreading flame: Pentecostal scholarship goes global

  1. Bless you Charlie: that’s a very, very important ministry. My #1 question coming back to grad school after 8 years out of my undergrad was “does scholarship have any value for the church?” I had precious few reasons to suspect that it does. And I am the child of two academics who have been active in church education and ministry! I know it is much worse for others without my background.

  2. Your experience is exactly why I do grad ministry – to encourage young Christian scholars to pursue academics as a valid spiritual calling.

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