The Poverty of Pentecostal Theological Writing (Part. 2)
One reason for the poverty of Pentecostal theological writing is the lack of Pentecostal theologians. 'But', I hear you ask, 'what about all those academic posts you talked about in the last?' Well, the simple truth of the matter is that most of the books coming out of the Pentecostal academy are in areas other than theology. Is it just me, or does the Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series contain more New Testament Studies books than it does Theology books? We seem to be good at producing New Testament Scholars (e.g. Gordon Fee) and historians, but there are not so many theologians qua theologians among our ranks.
Now in some ways this makes sense. Pentecostalism has always placed a very high priority on studying the Bible, so when Pentecostalism spills over into academia it follows that Biblical Studies would be a more familiar landing place than theology.
Yet, theology is also about studying the Bible, and it's a way of studying the Bible we Pentecostals need to be doing more of.
Another reason for the lack of Pentecostal theologians is the discipline of Pentecostal Studies. Pentecostal Studies is a good thing in that it's got a lot of Pentecostals into studying theology. However, there tends not to be a lot of theology qua theology in Pentecostal Studies. Rather it tends to lean heavily towards New Testament Studies and (20th Century) Church History. These are good in themselves, but this may also account for why we are seeing so many Pentecostal New Testament Scholars and Church Historians, and not so many theologians. What systematic theological content there is tends to be limited to Pneumatology, which brings me to my next point.
Pentecostals like to write about Pneumatology a bit too much. What?! Yes, you did read that correctly. Pneumatology may be one of the areas in which we can make our most distinctive contributions to theology, but it is not the only important area of theology. This point really struck me recently as I was trying to do a bit of research on Pentecostal theology of the Atonement. I quickly realized, that apart from chapters in our basic introductory doctrinal books, Pentecostal theologians have written very little specifically about the Cross. Shame! So let me say again, there is more to theology than Pneumatology!
So at the end of the day, there are very few Pentecostal theologians writing as theologians. In fact I think I can probably count the number of Pentecostals who have written books (plural) in English in the area of (systematic) theology on one hand!
Yes, there are now many Pentecostal New Testament scholars and historians, for which we should be thankful and not forget their contributions. In fact theologians rely on the work of New Testament scholars and theologians to allow them to do theirs, so perhaps it is only fitting that these disciplines have emerged first. But we also need theologians who write as theologians for the benefit of the church.
Once again I have become completely distracted from my original intentions in starting this topic, so there will have to be a third post. Until then ...