The PAOC (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada) recently published a booklet entitled, Authentically Pentecostal: Here’s What We See—A Conversation, which is a collection of essays, largely coming out of the PAOC’s “Theological Study Commission.” The publication covers the themes of Christ as savior, baptizer, healer, and coming king from theological and pastoral perspectives.
In the section on Christ as savior, Jeromey Martini and Brandon Malo do a fine job of describing the variety of ways that the Scripture describes salvation. They also emphasize that salvation is not just about reaching heaven and God no longer seeing us as sinners. Martini may overstate the fact that what changes in salvation is us (rather than God—p. 16). He is correctly reacting to views of salvation that present the “nice” Jesus as saving us from the “angry” God who must punish us for our sins. However, it seems to me that our salvation does bring about a change in God (consider Romans 5:9), albeit this is largely on account of the change God affects in us. Regarding another point, I am a little more optimistic than Brando Malo regarding Pentecostal preaching on salvation, because it seems to me that most Pentecostals (and other evangelicals) have largely moved away from emphasizing salvation as “an escapist…mentality” (p. 25), with a focus on getting to heaven, to preaching salvation as having a relationship with God.
Roger Stronstad begins the section on Christ as baptizer (in the Holy Spirit) by summarizing his excellent work on this topic as he emphasizes the prophethood of all believers and how believers can be empowered to carry on the ministry of Jesus by being filled with the Holy Spirit. The next two essays by Peter Cusick and Karen Reed continue to a good job of emphasizing the importance of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. At the same time, however, I am puzzled by how these latter two essays focus so much on speaking in tongues. For example, Reed discusses the importance of praying (and how to pray) in tongues (p. 49-51). Similarly, Cusick writes that Roger Stronstad’s essay in this booklet “is helping us to see tongues as something more than initial evidence.” I am worried that this focus on speaking in tongues is an indication of how so many people in the PAOC view (and preach on) baptism in the Holy Spirit. In contrast to these two essays, Stronstad’s essay actually says little about speaking in tongues. Rather, he emphasizes our anointed ministry. In fact, Stronstad mentions tongues only a few times when he says that baptism in the Spirit is “attested by speaking in tongues,” that the “sign” of Spirit Baptism is speaking in other tongues, and that speaking in tongues was “the invariable sign” of Spirit Baptism for the believers in the book of Acts (p. 32-33 & 36). On another note, I observe that Stronstad never explicitly refers to tongues as “the initial evidence” of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, so I wonder if he represents those who are unsure if the terminology of “initial evidence” is the best way to express the relationship of tongues to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In the section on Christ as healer, William Sloos and Brandon Malo reaffirm the consistent Pentecostal belief that God still heals people today. To me, their most important points are: 1) that when a person is not healed, it does not mean they lacked faith (p. 58 and 70) and, 2) that healing isn’t meant to be confined to circles of believers; rather, it should go hand in hand with evangelism (p. 65-66 and 71).
In the section on Christ as coming King, both Van Johnson and Peter Cusick discuss eschatology in terms of living in light of the kingdom of God which is “already” coming (but “not yet” fully here). Related to this, they both express dissatisfaction (which seems to be common in the PAOC these days) with building “an entire prophetic calendar” (p. 80) or having a “fascination with the rapture and prophetic charts” (p. 79, compare p. 84). Doing this, they say, can hinder us from living in light of the kingdom of God (by doing what needs to be done now) as we await (and expect) the imminent (any time) return of Christ.
Overall, this booklet makes me proud to be a part of the PAOC. I have been impressed with the leadership of the PAOC to allow and encourage open discussion on doctrine as the commission has met across Canada (including at the recent national conference). Further, Van Johnson writes that the booklet “was not written to make definitive statements” noting that “we have our differences within the committee” (p. 3). I am also impressed by the fact that the PAOC (and its leadership) recognize the importance of theological discussion. This is illustrated by the fairly new existence of the PAOC theological study commission as well as this booklet. Ignoring theological discussion only allows misunderstanding to grow as well as poor ministry practice. David Well’s expresses this well when he writes, “Good lives and good ministry always flow from good theology” (p. 7). The unfortunate thing is that many (including myself) often think we already have our theology all figured out, and, hence, we can be prone to shy away from (or react over-defensively to) a theological discussion which may challenge us and even correct us. This is not the case with this booklet. I encourage everyone in the PAOC to take a few hours to read the booklet…it isn’t long…you can order a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 905-542-7400 (ex. 3223). It is only $3 plus shipping.
The theological study commission started a conversation and continues it now with the publication of Authentically Pentecostal. I have NOT attempted here to offer a complete summary of the book. Rather, I offer the above thoughts and reflections to continue the conversation. As always, I invite you to join the conversation by commenting below.