Defining Pentecostalism is a task that is yet before me in my dissertation research. Already in the first part of the dissertation, I will need to define a set of criteria that any proposed methodology will have to meet in order to be acceptable to both Pentecostals and a Post-modern world. So what is it that really makes someone or something Ã¢Â€ÂœPentecostalÃ¢Â€Â? With the enormous size and the multiple contexts of the Pentecostal movement of today, this answer is not easy. However, a number of criteria do emerge on a closer look:
- Orthodox: Pentecostalism stems from an Evangelical mainstream which has continually upheld the central beliefs of orthodox Christianity as set forth in the great creeds of the Early church. Any proposed method of theology cannot be incompatible with these core components of our faith.
- Christocentric: Although the Pentecostal movement as a whole is far from having any kind of unified theology, a look back into the beginnings turns the focus onto a clear-cut Christocentrism that is at the heart of Pentecostalism: The essence of the Ã¢Â€Âœfull gospelÃ¢Â€Â is contained in the message that Christ acts as savior, healer, baptizer, and coming king. Everything in Pentecostal theology is centered on Christ and any theological method has to take this focus into account.
- Biblical: Pentecostals have always held to the primordial significance of the Bible as the number one source of theology. Although a clearly defined method of theology may add other sources, the position of the Bible as true written Word of God and therefore primary source for theological truth needs to be emphasized in any proposal.
- Transrational: Even though reason is a valuable, even indisposable instrument in our approach to the Bible and to theology, Pentecostals have always been reluctant to limit themselves to reason alone. Such a limitation would exclude the transrational dimension of GodÃ¢Â€Â™s speaking even in our times, and is therefore not permissible for a truly Pentecostal method for theology.
- Pneumatic: In fact, the transrationality of Pentecostal theology finds its foundation in perhaps the most emphatic element of Pentecostalism, the belief that the Holy Spirit is acting in the same way today is he did in the times of the Early Church. God is still speaking to his people today, and, although any claim to divine revelation needs to be carefully balanced and checked against established criteria, any theological methodology has to be open to include this possibility.