Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Tradition-Based Integration: A Pentecostal Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Tradition-Based Integration: A Pentecostal Perspective

Article excerpt

Pentecostal Christians are estimated to be second only to Roman Catholics in numbers. This expression of the Christian faith shares much theology with other Christians but brings unique emphases to the Christian life as well. This article articulates some of the deep metaphors of Pentecostal belief and practice and explores how these inform a personal way of thinking about and engaging the task of integrating psychology and theology.

In typical Pentecostal fashion I begin with some personal testimony. It will be helpful to know that I was first exposed to Pentecostal thought and practice in a small rural church during my early adolescence. Pentecostal worship is lively, exuberant, and physically expressive; it also involves a good deal of congregant participation. I vividly recall Sunday evening services that lasted three and four hours in which a variety of people would be praying with each other around an altar at the front of the building as various worshippers sought forgiveness of sin, healing, deliverance, an experience of the baptism of/in the Holy Spirit, or a "blessing" from the Lord that would sustain them through the vicissitudes of life. These times were accompanied by singing, dancing, tears, shouts of praise and thanksgiving. I was often involved in these prayer services either to be prayed for or to pray with others. The prayers that focused on healing and deliverance were especially formative for me. I remember a sense of awe when such prayers were answered right there in the service, as the power and presence of the Lord were visibly present. But I also remember being just as intrigued about what was happening in those times when healing or deliverance did not come.

A key component of these services that was also formative for me was the Pentecostal practice of listening to and participating in "testimonies," a time in the worship when a person was given opportunity to share how the Lord was at work (or not) in the person's life. Testimonies were a way to give space for people to voice their victories, concerns, and laments. This time helped people recognize and acknowledge the joys and sadness that are the fabric of life; they provided space for processing the healings that came and those that did not (cf. Belcher & Vining, 2000).

These Pentecostal practices left an indelible impression that continues to influence the way I think about and interact with the world and its various joys and sorrows. Before looking more closely at this influence, some further context on Pentecostalism will be helpful.

Pentecostal believers are described as the fastest growing segment of Christianity in the world (Anderson, 2004). This expression of Christianity includes a wide variety of groups from "classical Pentecostals" who emerged from the 1906-1908 revival at Azusa Street to more contemporary "charismatic" groups like the "word of faith" movement and indigenous third world movements (Anderson, 2004; Synan, 1997). The most obvious (though not universal) common factor among the groups is their emphasis on the present experience of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When these more contemporary charismatic groups are included, some estimate the number of Pentecostal worshippers at over half a billion (Johnson, 2009). Having been around in a recognizable form for only a hundred years or so, many still speak of Pentecostalism more as a movement than an institutionalized religion (though it begins to show signs of more traditional religious groups; cf. Vondey, 2013).

My own roots lie in the classical Pentecostal tradition. What follows is an articulation of various aspects of Pentecostal belief and practice that inform my integrative activities.

Pentecostal Answers to Common Theological Questions: Windows to a Pentecostal Worldview

My first thought in encountering the common questions posed by the editors is that these questions do not fit a Pentecostal way of thinking. In fact, it is at this very point of trying to name theologians and theological doctrines that one encounters one of the defining characteristics of Pentecostalism. …

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