Is A Contextualized Hermeneutic The Future Of Pentecostal Readings

Is A Contextualized Hermeneutic The Future Of Pentecostal Readings

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PNEUMA 37 (2015) 341–355

Is a Contextualized Hermeneutic the Future of Pentecostal Readings?

The Implications of a Pentecostal Hermeneutic for a Chicano/Latino Community

Rodolfo Galvan Estradaiii Regent University, Virginia Beach,va


This article explores the implications of the community’s identity in the pentecostal hermeneutical methodology of Spirit-Word-Community. By drawing from the insights of pentecostal, postcolonial, and Latino scholars, I seek to demonstrate that the pen- tecostal community’s identity cannot be neglected in the construction of meaning. A more robust pentecostal hermeneutical methodology that affirms the role of the com- munity must recognize its contextual identity and not ground it in a transcendent or universal understanding of what it means to be a Pentecostal. This article will draw out the implications of reading Scripture by analyzing the identity of a Chicano and Latino community and its role within a pentecostal hermeneutic.


pentecostal – hermeneutics – community – Mestizo – Chicano/a – Latino/a

Pentecostal scholars have awakened us to the vital role that the community and the Spirit play in biblical interpretation.1 Their distinct pentecostal iden- tity leads them to emphasize and champion the dynamic role of Spirit in the

1 Kenneth Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic: Spirit, Scripture, and Community(Cleveland,tn:

cpt Press, 2009); Kevin L. Spawn and Archie T. Wright, eds., Spirit and Scripture: Exploring a

Pneumatic Hermeneutic(New York: Bloomsbury/t&tClark, 2013).

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2015 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03703004



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interpretation of biblical texts.2Rickie Moore states, “Pentecostalism should be about pursuing an approach that, while attentive to the text, the author, and the reader, is above all focused on the Spirit of the text, the Spirit behind the author, the Spirit above the reader, and the Spirit within the unfolding story, from Scrip- ture to now, that binds all of these together in the Spirit.”3 In reference to the theological tradition, Robby Waddell affirms, “A Pentecostal reading would be both synchronic, focusing on the final form of the text, and theological, allow- ing the ethos and experience of the tradition to inform the interpretation the- ologically.”4 Scholars such as Jaqueline Grey recognize how Pentecostals bring a particular pneumatic experience and look for the meaning within the text as it is revealed through the Holy Spirit.5 Others, such as John Christopher Thomas, propose a pentecostal hermeneutical model built on three primary components that include the community, the activity of the Spirit, and Scrip- ture.6 Kenneth Archer further develops this model and argues for a particular tridactic hermeneutical strategy that negotiates meaning among the Spirit, the biblical text, and the community.7 According to Archer, the meaning of the text for a pentecostal exegete is found through an interaction among the Spirit, Scripture, and the pentecostal community.

These insights provide Pentecostals with a theological horizon that distin- guishes their particular hermeneutical methodology from that of non-Pente- costals. And while I agree with pentecostal scholars and with the hermeneu- tical model that focuses upon the Spirit, text, and community, I also notice particular areas that need further development. The assumption often made

2 Andrew Davies, “What Does It Mean to Read the Bible as a Pentecostal?” jpt 18 (2009): 216–

229. John Christopher Thomas, “What the Spirit is Saying to the Church: The Testimony

of a Pentecostal in New Testament Studies,” in Spirit and Scripture: Exploring a Pneumatic

Hermeneutic, ed. Kevin L. Spawn and Archie T. Wright (New York: Bloomsbury/t & t Clark,

2013), 16–122; Mark Cartledge, “Text—Community—Spirit: The Challenges Posed by Pente-

costal Theological Method to Evangelical Theology,” inSpirit and Scripture: Exploring a Pneu-

matic Hermeneutic, ed. Kevin L. Spawn and Archie T. Wright (New York: Bloomsbury/t & t

Clark, 2013), 133–135.

3 Rickie D. Moore,TheSpiritoftheOldTestament(Blandford Forum,uk: Deo Publications,2011),


4 Robby Waddell, The Spirit in the Book of Revelation (Blandford Forum, uk: Deo Publications,

2006), 101.

5 Jacqueline Grey, Three’s a Crowd: Pentecostalism, Hermeneutics and the Old Testament

(Eugene,or: Pickwick, 2011), 114–133.

6 John Christopher Thomas, “Women, Pentecostals and the Bible: An Experiment in Pente-

costal Hermeneutics,” jpt 5 (1994): 50.

7 Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic, 213.

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about the community within a pentecostal methodology is that it is solely a theological one without a particular contextual identity. Archer first alerts us to this issue when he states that his pentecostal reading strategy is concerned with the “multicultural and multiracial”8 dimensions of the community. Yet, the question that arises when we argue for the necessity of the community in pentecostal hermeneutic is the following: Does the community’s contex- tual identity necessarily have a place within a pentecostal reading strategy given that pentecostalism is a global movement that is ethnically and cultur- ally diverse? Is the pentecostal identity that contributes to our understanding of the text solely a theological one based upon pneumatic experiences? Or can we admit the obvious and recognize that cultural, gender, and racial compo- nents make up the identity of the community and influence our reading of Scripture?

These questions that I propose arise out of my appreciation of various pente- costal biblical scholars who incorporate the community into their hermeneu- tics but now need all communities to affirm and continually demonstrate the impact that context has in reading Scripture within a pentecostal reading strat- egy. Since pentecostal scholars will rightly recognize the community’s role in pentecostal hermeneutics, then we must establish the fact that its contextual identity is also a part of its theological pentecostal identity and will be an inte- gral component in the future of pentecostal hermeneutics.

But is it necessary to qualify our understanding of the community and put an ethnic face on the interpreter? I certainly believe so, and thus my aim is to challenge our understanding of pentecostal hermeneutics by analyzing the community’s role in biblical interpretation. Within this article I will focus upon Kenneth Archer’s A Pentecostal Hermeneuticas my primary conversation part- ner in understanding a pentecostal reading strategy. First, I will explain why a pentecostal reading strategy must have a broader understanding of the com- munity by demonstrating how postcolonial readers and Latino scholars have challenged the assumption that an objective and neutral reader can exist. This will lead us not only to recognize the importance of one’s ethnic and cul- tural identity in the construction of meaning, but also to affirm the value of the community’s identity in a pentecostal hermeneutical method. Second, I will demonstrate how context has always affected the early pentecostal com- munity’s reading of Scripture. By teasing out the implications of the diverse community’s identity, I will show why a pentecostal hermeneutic must recog- nize that identity is not solely theological. Finally, I do not want exclusively to

8 Ibid., 212.

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champion either the community’s role in pentecostal hermeneutics or ways in which marginalized people read today; rather, I want to offer the implica- tions from a Chicano and Latino community. I aim to challenge pentecostal scholars who value the community’s role in hermeneutics to acknowledge that pentecostal readings are those that affirm diverse pentecostal identities. It is my hope that as Scripture is read through the lens of pentecostalism that the influences of contextual identities in the construction of meaning is not ignored.

The Community in a Pentecostal Reading Strategy

Understanding the identity of a pentecostal community is foundational to understanding what it means to interpret the Bible from a pentecostal perspec- tive. When we use the word pentecostal, however, the term often has denom- inational connotations that help explain why some prefer another nomencla- ture. Although there was a time in which being a Pentecostal meant that one believed in the gift of tongues, its definition today is no longer restricted to doctrinal or denominational affiliations. Allan Anderson observes that Pente- costals today have defined themselves by so many paradigms that all Pente- costals, regardless of their global locations, emphasize the immediate presence ofGod,expectsomemiraculousintervention,or encouragecongregationalpar- ticipation during prayer and worship.9 The focus on the Holy Spirit and the experience of spiritual gifts, whether speaking in tongues, healing, or prophecy, has come to distinguish Pentecostals from non-Pentecostals.10

Although scholars such as John Christopher Thomas rightly define the pen- tecostal community as consisting of individuals who are called out of the world by God, have experienced salvation through Jesus Christ, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work of ministry in this present world,11my concern is that understanding Pentecostalism solely as a theological identity can hin- der the full development of a pentecostal hermeneutic. André Droogers also notices potential dangers in our quest to define and understand Pentecostal- ism, so much so that he warns about attempting to reduce Pentecostalism to some essential element based upon stereotypes or preconceived insider expe-


10 11

Allan Anderson,IntroductiontoPentecostalism:GlobalCharismaticChristianity(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 9.

Ibid., 13.

Christopher Thomas, “Women, Pentecostals and the Bible,” 51.

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is a contextualized hermeneutic the future?


riences.12 These reductionist tendencies in defining the pentecostal commu- nity may lead us to overlook the wide cultural and ethnic differences within the movement. Danger arises when we use the term pentecostal community, devoid of a contextual identity, in our understanding of its role in hermeneu- tics. Therefore, when Pentecostals advocate for a pentecostal hermeneutic of Spirit-Word-Community, they must recognize not only the theological identity that unites Pentecostals worldwide, but also particular identities rooted in var- ious contexts. The role that one’s contextual experiences with the Spirit have in our reading of Scripture cannot be ignored. These experiences come together and form a contextual-theological identity that shapes the community’s hori- zon.

Since Archer’s pentecostal reading strategy offers the interpreter the ability to explore the meaning of the text in a dialectical and dialogical interaction from within the community, this means that the identity of the pentecostal community opens us to radically inclusive readings that incorporate horizons that include ethnic, cultural, and other contextual elements. Thus I am propos- ing a qualified pentecostal hermeneutical strategy. That is, we cannot have a pentecostal hermeneutic with its assumed cultural hegemony or universal understanding of what it means to be a “pentecostal community”; it must be a hermeneutic that takes into account the communities’ historical experiences as Latino, Black, Asian, or Indian Pentecostals.This means,as Philip Chia points out, that our affirmation of community identities does not imply an extreme separatism or total alienation of communities, but a call for the perspective of intersubjectivity of relational understanding among communities.13 Chia argues that it also demands respect for the rightful place of the other that does not nullify cultural identity and distinctiveness. He admits that in bibli- cal studies it will require mutual trust, honesty, respect, and humility to relate, not cultural domination or subjugation.14 Intersubjective theorists have also reminded us that no one culture or group has a privileged access to reality; rather, our only possibility is to search together for understandings while avoid- ing the “know it all” attitude.15With expanded community qualifiers we are not



14 15

André Droogers, “Essentialist and Normative Approaches,” inStudying Global Pentecostal- ism: Theories + Methods, ed. Allan Anderson and Andre Droogers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 30–50.

Philip Chia, “Intersubjectivity, Intertexutality and Interconnectivitiy: On Biblical Herme- neutics and Hegemony,” Jian Dao(1996): 6.

Ibid., 9.

Donna M. Orange, “Intersubjective Systems Theory: A Fallibilist’s Journey,” Annals of the NewYorkAcademyofSciences1159 (2009): 237–248. Hans-Herbert Kögler, “Recognition and

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proposing many hermeneutical strategies ad infinitum but valuing the contri- butions that the qualifiers add to the meaning of Scripture that is constructed in the dialectical interaction with the biblical text and Spirit.

Postcolonial interpreters have alerted us to these realities with similar cri- tiques against western readings of Scripture. Fernando Segovia remarks that it was a praiseworthy goal to become an impartial and objective reader through the adoption of scientific methods and the denial of particularity and con- textuality. But he also regards this goal as quite naïve and dangerous.16 This approach, he observes, remained inherently colonialistic and imperialistic because it expected all critics to interpret Scripture from a eurocentric perspec- tive.17If we assume that one can become a neutral and impartial reader, Segovia states, then we are actually embracing a dehumanizing approach because it requires the divestiture of all those identity factors that constitute and char- acterize the reader.18 He argues that reading Scripture from one’s own social location and community allows the Bible to be read in one’s “own tongue,” as reflected in Acts 2.19In other words, the divine filling of the Spirit made it pos- sible for the gospel to be communicated in the language of those that hear, not those who speak. Speaking in tongues, in this sense, demands a translation of the text into the language of the hearer. Justo Gonzalez makes a similar obser- vation when he states that the Spirit does not impose upon all the language of the disciples at Pentecost but, rather, makes it possible for various people to understand the gospel in their own native tongue.20 That is, the community in which we stand contributes to our understanding of Scripture. No reader is exempt.

Affirming the identity of the community and not neglecting its contextual dynamic also values the unique human experience of the pentecostal reader. The reader cannot ignore or disown his or her identity with theological cate- gories that omit this factor when grappling with what it means to be pente-


17 18 19 20

Difference: The Power of Perspectives in Interpretive Dialogue,”Social Identities11 (2005): 247–269.

Fernando Segovia, “And They Began to Speak in Other Tongues: Competing Modes of Dis- course in Contemporary Biblical Criticism,” in Readings From This Place: Social Location andBiblicalInterpretationintheUnitedStates, ed. Fernando Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 29.

Ibid., 29.

Ibid., 30.

Ibid., 4–5.

Justo Gonzalez, Santa Biblia: The Bible through Spanish Eyes (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 20–21.

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costal interpreters. All meaning generated from the biblical text is also influ- enced and interpreted through a subjectivity that is racial and cultural as well as ideological and theological. And since human beings cannot be understood apart from these systems, this also suggests that pentecostal theological iden- tity cannot be separated from contextual realities. Reading and interpreting the text is always contextually driven and our “native tongue” is found within the theological and contextual identity of the pentecostal community.

The Contextual Identity of the Early Pentecostals

Kenneth Archer points out that what makes a pentecostal hermeneutical strat- egy “pentecostal” is that the interpretation is generated from within a pente- costal community.21 The interpreter must share the story, participate in the pentecostal community, and understand that the meaning of the text is fil- tered through this horizon.22 Since the inception of Pentecostalism the con- textual identity of the community has always influenced a pentecostal read- ing of Scripture. When we explore the history of early Pentecostalism, Gary McGee observes, the majority of Pentecostals were on the margins of society and belonged to the working class, with a few who were wealthy and edu- cated.23 Cecil Robeck points out that the vast majority of black Pentecostals during the Azusa Street Revival were uneducated, came from the rural South, worked in manual labor, and lived in substandard housing.24Even Walter Hol- lenweger states that in 1936 Pentecostals were principally found in southern states, that there were more women than men, and that their average income was lower than that of American churches as a whole.25Yet, Archer recognizes,

21 22 23 24


Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic, 208.

Ibid., 225.

Gary McGee, People of the Spirit (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2004), 27. Cecil Robeck, “The Azusa Street Mission and Historic Black Churches: Two Worlds in Conflict in Los Angeles’ African American Community,” in Afro-Pentecostalism: Black Pen- tecostal and Charismatic Christianity in History and Culture, ed. Amos Yong and Estrelda Alexander (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 32–35; See also David Daniels iii, “Navigating the Territory: Early Afro-Pentecostalism as a Movement within Black Civil Society,” in Afro-Pentecostalism: Black Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in History and Culture, ed. Amos Yong and Estrelda Alexander (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 49.

Walter Hollenweger, The Pentecostals: The Charismatic Movement in the Churches (Min- neapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972), 26.

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they shared marginal identity that influenced how they read Scripture. They blurred the boundaries between the text and their context and had an “atten- tive reading of the marginal and humble voices embedded in Scripture, which were ignored by mainline and academic readings of that time.”26 That is, it was the community’s identity that was both contextual and theological, which made it sensitive to the aspects within the text that reflected its context. And, as Archer asserts, this became a contributing factor in explaining to early Pen- tecostals why God chose to pour out the Spirit upon those outside the ecclesial establishment.27

We notice that the theological identity and experiences with the Spirit were not the only characteristics of early pentecostal readings of Scripture. There were contextual aspects that influenced what was being read and how. In the ministry of William Seymour28 and Charles Mason,29 their racial experiences shaped how they viewed Spirit baptism, gender relations, and the unity of the church. Robeck asserts that even prior to Seymour’s arrival at Azusa he was committed to a policy of nonsectarianism, the equality of races, and the equality of women.30Charles Mason was another early pentecostal with a firm commitment toward racial equality. As David Daniels notes, during the early segregationist period Mason embodied an impulse that aimed to make the interracial vision of the Azusa Street Revival constitutive of Pentecostalism.31 He led the Church of God in Christ to take a political and moral stand against racism and segregation by establishing a denomination that reflected the one- ness in Christ Jesus.32 Although not all Pentecostals were committed to racial






31 32

Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic, 166. Archer agrees that the pastor’s social standing was identical to that of the parishioners in “Pentecostal Hermeneutics: Retrospect and Prospect,” jpt 8 (1996): 68.

Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic, 166. Archer describes the poor and outcasts of society as the primary candidates for the Latter Rain outpouring in “Pentecostal Story: Hermeneu- tical Filter for the Making of Meaning,”Pneuma26 (2004): 48.

Cecil Robeck, Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Movement (Nash- ville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 26–31. See also The Apostolic Faith (November 1906), 1; (Jan- uary 1907), 1.

David D. Daniels, “Charles Harrison Mason: The Interracial Impulse of Early Pentecostal- ism,” in Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders, ed. James R. Goff and Grant Wacker (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002), 255–257.

Robeck, Azusa Street Mission and Revival, 30–31; See also Dale Irvin, “Drawing All Together in One Bond of Love: The Ecumenical Vision of William J. Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival,” jpt 6 (1995): 32.

Daniels, “Charles Harrison Mason,” 257.

Ibid., 255.

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unity and desegregation, the ethnic identity and experiences of these two Black Pentecostals enabled them to have a better understanding of the New Testa- ment’s vision for the church during the most difficult time in American history.

Although it is important to point out that a marginalized and oppressed sta- tus in early Pentecostalism was theological, we cannot overlook the fact that other dynamics such as ethnicity were an essential component in hermeneu- tics. Archer’s Pentecostal Hermeneutic affirms the importance of the pente- costal story as a contributor to the construction of identity. He agrees that contemporary hermeneutics are not isolated islands but are socially, culturally, and theologically shaped entities that contribute to the making of meaning.33 He also rightfully insists that a pentecostal hermeneutic cannot be reduced to a static or distinctive exegetical methodology but must include the ele- ment of the readers’ social location and narrative tradition.34 As a result of his insights, we must recognize that the distinct nontheological characteristics of the community, such as race, culture, and gender, are important factors in hermeneutics. The pentecostal community is not solely theological; it is diverse and includes a contextual identity. This is an important element that cannot be glossed over or assumed to have been incorporated just because the wordcom- munityis used.

Therefore, if we are to recover a pentecostal reading strategy that is faithful to its identity and reappropriated today, it is imperative to understand that the contextual identity of the community filters a pentecostal reading of Scripture as it did in early Pentecostalism. And as I will continue to argue, a pentecostal reading strategy, though grounded within a theological identity, must have a broader understanding of the community’s role in reading Scripture. The con- textualized identity of the interpreter is the future of a pentecostal hermeneu- tic.

Contextual Community: Its Implications for the Pentecostal Chicano/Latino

Now that we recognize the need for a broader understanding of the community in a pentecostal hermeneutic, what are the implications when Pentecostals read Scripture? Primarily, it means that the reader’s pentecostal identity, which



Archer, “Pentecostal Story: The Hermeneutic Filter for the Making of Meaning,”Pneuma 26 (2004): 37.

Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic, 180.

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is both theological and contextual, is also actively involved in the construction of meaning with the Spirit and the biblical text. It is a pentecostal methodol- ogy that is reflective of the diverse identity of the communities as we find in the example of the Acts 2 narrative. To recognize the contribution of the com- munity in a more robust pentecostal hermeneutic also means that the Spirit does not require that we divorce ourselves from our cultural, racial, or other contextual distinguishing marks, but that we understand the biblical text from within. While each community has a particular contribution, a pentecostal bib- lical interpreter who is a Chicano and a member of the Latino community, is affected by a bilingual and bicultural community in its understanding of Scripture. Although the scope of this article does not allow the development of a methodology, I do aim to inform the reader of the cultural lens through which the Chicano/a reads Scripture as a pentecostal interpreter. Our iden- tity as pentecostal interpreters cannot be culture-free, and thus my articula- tion of a contextual hermeneutic aims to point out why a community’s history and experience matters and how it influences a pentecostal reading of Scrip- ture.

At the outset, it is helpful to note that Chicanos are Mexican Americans. They are a part of the larger Latino community that includes diverse identi- ties and cultures. In writing about Chicanos, Néstor Medina points out that during the 1970s Mexican-American theologians developed the notion of mes- tizaje in order to articulate the experience of faith of the Mexican-American people.35 He notes that Mexican Americans used the mestizo lens as a way of understanding their identity while at the same time challenging those who fail to take ethnicity and culture into consideration as a central role in the theolog- ical task.36Thismestizocategory affirmed the experience of “in-between-ness” that Chicanos/as experience because they never completely belonged to either the Mexican or the American culture. They are not Mexicans from Mexico; however, as Virgilio Elizondo states, they usually accept their Mexican her- itage while linguistically, socially, and culturally they identify more with the u.s. mentality and lifestyle.37 Elizondo reminds us that their marginalization also includes the fact that they are not accepted in Mexico as regular Mexicans and their Spanish is often ridiculed and considered inferior.


36 37

Néstor Medina, Mestizaje: (Re)Mapping Race, Culture, and faith in Latina/o Catholicism (New York: Orbis Books, 2009), 1.

Medina, Mestizaje, 2–3.

Virgilio Elizondo, Galilean Journey: The Mexican American Promise (Maryknoll, ny: Orbis Books, 1983), 21.

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Since the Chicano/a is someone who lives in the hyphens, specifically between the Mexican and American cultures and identities, this means that they are always in the margins of the dominant cultures. They are American, but they also have their own cultural identities that are rooted in a Mexican culture. It is within this experience and identity that a pentecostal Chicano/a community reads Scripture. Medina notes, however, that the Chicano expe- rience of mestizaje is not unique but emerged since the colonization of the Americas by the Spanish explorers and conquistadores in 1492, and has a vast history that includes power structures and violence and is even used as an instrument to remove indigenous cultural characteristics.38 He finds that one of the earliest uses of the term as a conscious experience was by Garcilaso de la Vega, who was born during the most conflicted time of Peruvian colonial history.39 De la Vega was Inca and he was Spanish—a dual racial and cultural identity that he defines for himself as mestizo. Medina observes that histori- cally some of the mixed children of Spanish noblemen and indigenous women found themselves in a sociopolitical and cultural “in-between-ness” created by the colonial caste society, which formed a dual conscience identity that had to be negotiated.40 These early children of mixed raced, also identified as mesti- zos/as, experienced double rejection by both the indigenous and the Spanish people because of their dual identity. Medina proposes that the adoption of the mestizo label was the radical reclaiming of an indigenous identity, which resulted in the effort to keep their memory alive along with their Spanish iden- tity.41And in particular, De la Vega understood himself as someone who was in the hyphen but was proud of his dual ethnic heritage.

What impact does this contextual identity have upon a pentecostal reading strategy that recognizes the importance of the community as a filter in making meaning? It is important to recognize that De la Vega’s conscious experiences and negotiation of his identity are not unrelated to those of the Chicano pente- costal community living within the United States. For the Chicano/a, the con- textualizedmestizoexperience enables them to read the biblical text with a cul- tural and ethnic sensitivity to those in the margins and especially those who are in between two cultures and identities. Although mestizaje serves to highlight the particular lens through which Chicanos read, it is also a qualified term that

38 39

40 41

Medina, Mestizaje, 115–117.

Medina, “The Religious Psychology of Mestizaje: Gómez Suárez de Figueroa or Garcilaso Inca de la Vega,”Pastoral Psychology57 (2008): 118.

Ibid., 117.

Ibid., 121.

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is limited to a particular Mexican-American experience. It includes a dialecti- cal construction of meaning with the Spirit and biblical text through the lens of the reader’s contextual identity. As Medina remarks, mestizo/a theologians understand their history, read the biblical text, interpret people’s expressions of faith, and declare theological affirmations from within this perspective.42He insists that this also means that mestizo/a theologians invite us to engage the biblical text as a cultural document, given that their perspectives shed light on the particular cultural dynamics taking place in the biblical narratives. Finally, Medina also claims that by focusing upon the ethnocultural dynamics taking place in the biblical narrative, the mestizo experience helps us appreciate the rich cultural context within which Jesus announced the good news.43

In addition to the Chicano experience, there exists that of the Latino. Most recently, Daniel Rodriguez finds that a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey shows that 62 percent of all Latinos, not just Chicanos, are born here in the United States. Of these 62 percent only 4 percent indicate that they are Spanish dom- inant.44 This means that there is a strong possibility that many Latinos who are born, raised, and acculturated within the United States recognize their sta- tus as perpetual resident aliens.45 Chicanos who are a part of the 62 percent and are among the broader Latino community live in this “in-between-ness” because it is what Rodriguez identifies as the space in which multiple levels of racial and ethnic identifications are possible.46 Justo Gonzalez also recog- nizes that the overall Latino experience is one that is identified with the image of marginality.47 Since a marginal status means that one is excluded from the center, Gonzalez notices that Latinos read the Bible for a source of strength and explanation for painful experiences while, at the same time, they identify with characters in the biblical narrative that are also marginal.48 Even more, Gonzalez asserts that an extension of the marginal identity is that of exile and foreign alien, especially for those here in the United States. Living as an exile is an experience that many Latinos understand best because of their situation within the United States. It is this experience of marginality that many Lati-

42 43 44

45 46 47 48

Medina, Mestizaje, 21.

Ibid., 22.

Daniel Rodriguez, The Future of the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenera- tional Hispanic Congregations(Downers Grove,il: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 19. Ibid., 49.

Ibid., 53.

Gonzalez,Santa Biblia, 32.

Ibid., 35.

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nos/as and Chicanos/as incorporate in their reading of the biblical text, and it cannot be neglected, eschewed, or denied when they read Scripture as Pente- costals.

But this is not just a Latino or, in particular, a Chicano community’s sym- pathetic reading of marginal characters, hyphen spaces, or opportunities in which we interpret the text in the light of our own experiences. It is what Luis R. Rivera-Rodriguez recognizes to be a reading that involves a critical corre- spondence between the reader and the text in which the reader is involved in self-critical questions about the text’s possibilities.49 That is, in reading they are not only drawn to potential meanings that correspond to social, cultural, or economic location because of an affinity with the text. Chicanos/as are disasso- ciated from the text because their social location is dissimilar. Elizondo makes a similar point when he states that the insights gained by this reading must then be compared with the picture we have of the local community, looking for areas of both convergence and divergence.50 Thus, in the case of a contextual- ized Chicano pentecostal community, this reading of the text will be attuned to the images and figures in Scripture that stand in between two worlds, two cul- tures, and even two identities. But it will also recognize how different the text is from one’s own community, whether it is Chicano, Latino, or a community that is culturally and ethnically different from the cultural context of the text.

To recognize the experience of a contextualized community within a pente- costal hermeneutic also means that the community’s context is an important contributor in our reading of Scripture. Pentecostal hermeneutics therefore must affirm our contextual identities, not deny them, if we want to take seri- ously the role of the community in the negotiation of meaning. This includes such experiences as the daily struggle of a migrant farm worker who is exploited for his labor, the undocumented teenager who does not speak Spanish but understands herself as native to this land, or the Chicano who lives in a coun- try that once belonged to his or her ancestors but is consistently viewed as a second-class citizen. Those who interpret the biblical text from within a con- textualized community cannot jettison these aspects through which they filter their reading. To do so would be to perpetuate the western misconception of an unbiased and culturally free reader within a pentecostal hermeneutic.

With an identity that is both theological and contextual, the pentecostal community cannot avoid this reality in the construction of meaning because



Luis R. Rivera-Rodriguez, “Reading in Spanish from the Diaspora through Hispanic Eyes,” Theology Today54 (1998): 481.

Elizondo,Galilean Journey, 47.

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estrada iii

it is the locus in which the Spirit and the biblical text merge to make meaning. Medina aptly argues this point when he states that the ethnocultural identity is a fundamental aspect of our human being and must play a central role in the way we come to understand and engage the divine.51He insists that culture is the foundational role that provides the context and structure within which humans make sense of and give meaning to religious experiences. To remove it, as Medina puts it, is to engage in a kind of docetism that denies the impact of the human ethnocultural dimension and its contribution to our theological understanding.52 This also means that no cultural group has a complete view of God and all cultural groups must come together and enter into conversation with one another as equals.

Affirming Our Contextualized Pentecostal Hermeneutic

What, therefore, is the future of pentecostal hermeneutics? For one thing, as I have attempted to demonstrate thus far, Pentecostals must recognize the value of contextual realities in the community’s reading of Scripture. The insights of various pentecostal scholars, including those of Kenneth Archer, have led us to affirm the importance of the community. Archer asserts that no commu- nity, including the pentecostal one, is socially neutral or timeless. It includes real people in real locations that influence their selection, interpretation, and reappropriation of the biblical texts. As American Pentecostals expand into var- ious social standings and move out from the marginal experiences of its early history, we cannot assume that all other Pentecostals embrace similar notions, understandings, and homogenous identities within their communities. There are still Pentecostals whose marginalized identity is akin to the historic iden- tity of early Pentecostalism and whose readings included the concerns of the poor, oppressed, women, and those voices in Scripture that were socially disad- vantaged. The pentecostal hermeneutical method must be open to the work of the Spirit in speaking and drawing out our community’s ethnic, social, gender, and cultural experiences and identity markers in the construction of mean- ing. To be a pentecostal interpreter means that one embraces a contextualized hermeneutic and allows the possibilities of broader readings from various com- munities.



Néstor Medina, “Transgressing Theological Shibboleths: Culture as Locus of Divine (Pneu- matological) Activity,”Pneuma36, no. 3 (2014): 441.

Ibid., 442.

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is a contextualized hermeneutic the future?


While many pentecostal biblical scholars have rightly pointed to the com- munity as the locus of biblical interpretation, my contention is that when we take seriously the role of the community in a pentecostal reading strategy, we are now moving beyond a narrow understanding of what it means to be such a community. Robby Waddell aptly recognizes the existence of many contextual readings of Scripture that represent various segments of different faith commu- nities, each of which is vying for the attention of the reader, and that the most popular of these contextual readings are feminist and African-American.53 In addition, he observes that pentecostal interpretations will also be from the margins and will be sympathetic both to feminist interpretations, given that the majority of Pentecostals are female, and African-American interpretations, given that the majority of Pentecostals are nonwhite.54 The next step for pen- tecostal interpreters is that they must affirm, champion, and emphasize the context of the community in the construction of meaning because ethnic pen- tecostal readings from within particular communities are equally valued as pentecostal interpretations. In other words, the cultural, racial, and gender aspects that contribute to the identity of the community cannot be neglected within a pentecostal hermeneutical method. It is from within these horizons of the community’s contextual identity that meaning is negotiated in a dialec- tical and dialogical encounter with the text and Spirit. It is an interpretation that takes into account the experiences of the pentecostal reader and what the Spirit is speaking through the text to the reader’s own context. We must rec- ognize the relative and diverse identities of the pentecostal communities and not ground them in some transcendent and universal understanding of what it means to be a Pentecostal. To do so not only robs the pentecostal reader of his or her cultural and ethnic identity; it also ignores the fact that when the Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost, each heard the gospel in his or her own native tongue.

53 54

Waddell,The Spirit in the Book of Revelation, 114. Ibid., 115.

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