Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Theology (ThD)


Historical Theology

First Advisor

Quentin Wesselschmidt

Scripture References in this Resource (separated by semi-colons)

Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; Acts 1:8; James 5:14-15; Daniel 11:30; John 16:13; Deuteronomy 29:29; John 8:58; 1 Corinthians 14:14;


Statement of the Problem

Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan estimates that Pentecostals now comprise the largest family of Protestants in the world. Drawing from the World Christian Encyclopedia) he concludes that Pentecostalism now claims a total of 51,167,000 adherents, not including an additional11,000,000 independent charismatics. This places the Pentecostal/Independent Charismatic movement significantly ahead of classical groups such as the Anglicans (49,804,000adherents), Baptists (47,550,000) and Lutherans (43,460,-This figure grows even larger when the "Third-Wave “phenomenon is included. This term, used by Pentecostals and Charismatics to identify members of traditional evangelical churches who have begun to practice charismatic gifts and worship, indicates a total of 20.7 million adherents. If one chooses to count by "waves," the total population of those espousing charismatic beliefs as of 1985 constitutes267.9 million believers or nineteen percent of the world’s church-member Christians.5 By the end of this century it is projected that twenty-nine percent of all Christians, or562.5 million persons will be Pentecostal or Charismatic in belief and practice.6 David Barrett, in World Christian Encyclopedia, reports that by 1988 Charismatics had grown to over 359 million followers worldwide, with a growth rate of21 per-cent, making it the fastest growing religious movement in America and the world.

While the devotion and sincerity of thousands of adherents in the above movements is beyond question, the issues of content and sound theology must be faced. While Classical Pentecostalism originally held to both conservative theological tenets and an evangelical view of Scripture, it is currently undergoing rapid transition. Evangelical foundations are rapidly eroding as Pentecostalism becomes increasingly syncretistic as well as ecumenical.8The New Hermeneutic and its derivatives are being actively courted as alternatives to the formidable grammatical historical challenges of non-pentecostal evangelical Protestants. The logical question raised by these events is whether liberal scholars are undermining an original, basically conservative theology, or are actually calling Pentecostalism to a greater adherence to its authentic roots. Is the movement authentically conservative and evangelical? Or is the theological substructure actually an alien experience which has merely been disguised for many years as an offshoot of conservative Protestantism?

Independent Charismatics, conversely, do not seem as affected by liberalism, but rather display a wide spectrum of tenets ranging from extreme pluralism to obscurantism colored by doctrines of prosperity theology. Their weakness seems to lie in a lack of form which allows for numerous heretical extremes. Religious authority becomes a question of central importance due to the influence of charismatic For example, the most current meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies ("Old and New Issues in Pentecostalism, “California Theological Seminary, Fresno, CA, November16-18, 1989) featured a paper titled "The Oneness View of Jesus" by an author from the United Pentecostal Church which teaches a Sabellian view of the Godhead. This was accompanied by continuing emphases on Protestant-Catholic dialogue, positive applications and attitudes toward the New Hermeneutic and its derivatives and a general disparaging of classical Protestantism. Leaders who answer to no one but themselves. They likewise must face the question of their true nature.

The critical problem is whether the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is essentially heterodox. Are the millions worshipping within this framework truly within the boundaries of historical Christianity? Congruent with this question is whether the believers themselves understand either the true content of their beliefs or the spiritual destination toward which they are headed.

Another issue is the facilitation of dialogue between Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal traditions. Contemporary attempts at communication seem to degenerate into arguments concerning the cessation of spiritual gifts or the phenomenon of glossolalia. Such debates are often a waste of time in that they do not confront the basic presuppositions of the opposing systems. The goal of this study is to examine presuppositions in order to provide criteria for analysis with a minimum of argumentation.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.