Tonight, we’ve been invited to a late (about one year late) housewarming party for one of our neighbour’s, the regional superintendent for the Lutheran church. To fully understand the situation, you need to know that, in Germany, the Lutheran church is the largest Protestant denomination, to which about half of the German population belong at least nominally. Here in Freudenstadt, we have a great working relationship with our Lutheran friends, since both of us belong to the local Evangelical Alliance.
Being there tonight, and getting to know another great couple of devoted ministers, made me appreciate again the wonderful place that God has put us in for the moment. Let me show you our street by help of Google’s satellite imagery …
The numbers on the map point to the following places:
- Stadtkirche („City chapel“): the major Lutheran church in Freudenstadt
- Pfarrhaus West (western
parsonage): Rev. and Mrs. Thomas and Ulla StrohÃ¤cker. Thomas is one of
the pastors of the Stadtkirche. His wife Ulla is the president and
driving force behind the local chapter of the Evangelical Alliance.
(office and home of the regional superintendent): Rev. and Mrs. Harald
and Annette Stumpf. In his position, Harald oversees a district of more
than fifty Lutheran churches.
- Kirchenpflege und Diakonie (administrative offices of the Lutheran church): Deacon Siegfried Mayer.
- Buchhandlung Rudert: a large, Protestant bookstore
- Schulstr. 43: our own humble abode.
you see, God has placed us in the midst of colleagues and friends, who
share the burden and the joys of ministry in our city. Could you
imagine a better place to live?
Mainstream Evangelicalism is basically a modernistic movement — there’s no doubt about it. In many places, Evangelicals have become synonymous with Evangelical Fundamentalism. Along with liberalism, its eternal foe, fundamentalism is deeply entrenched in the modern way of reasoning coming directly out of the European Enlightenment. But where does Evangelicalism go when its underlying modernistic epistemology is disappearing? Most interestingly, large parts of the wider Evangelical movement seem to cling to modernism with all their might — steering themselves ever wider into a neo-fundamentalist trap of irrelevance to the new, postmodern culture.
While I firmly believe that Pentecostalism is and always has been part of the Evangelical movement, this is a good moment to note a decisive distinction: Pentecostalism never really was modern. Label it however you want, I for one prefer the term "para-modern" that Ken Archer argued for in his 2001 book A Pentecostal Hermeneutics for the Twenty First Century. Now, this would seem like good news and an open road ahead for Pentecostalism, where it not for many Pentecostals‘ strive to become "more Evangelical", which often brings us dangerously close to the neo-fundamentalist Evangelical. Do we really want to go there? Or might the "way out" for Evangelicalism’s current cul-de-sac be in the very Pentecostal part of its fold? Certainly, the early twenty-first century does seem like a bad time to finally jump on the modernist bandwaggon and adopt what we’ve been spared so far.
Attempting to place Pentecostalism in the Christian (or even just the Evangelical) mainstream can — let’s admit this — be a curious task. But even more so, if the one’s doing so are some rather clueless editors on Wikipedia. Rich Tatum has a great article on Wikipedia, cult status, and the Assemblies of God.
The principle of sola scriptura, theological truth derrived from the Scriptures, has continued straight from the days of the Protestant reformation into the Evangelical mainstream of today. With postmodern thinking, a multitude of interpretations and hermeneutical methods, as well as an ever-growing number of denominations and churches, the very principle that was meant to provide the certainty of theological truth has come under criticism. Scott McKnight (HT to Brad Anderson) has published a JETS article analyzing a recent wave of Envangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism (yes, you read correctly!). Among the characteristic complaints about Evangelicalism, the uncertainty stemming from a limited sola scriptura principle lists as number one.
I think, the article is a must read, and there is work set out for us to do. None of the deficiencies listed in McKnight’s analysis is impossible to be overcome, and, I even think, Pentecostalism might already some (think of desire for healing, mystic encounters, …). Of course, the sola scriptura angle is a major focus of the ongoing research for my Ph.D. dissertation.