The Genre of Systematic Theology David
in Pentecostalism presentasjon 1990).
A Review Essay
Et forsok pÅen samlet
(Oslo: Filadelfiaforleget, 395
systematic publisher of the
the denominational The
publication writer is unusual in any
tradition and among Pentecostals the appearance of such a work is rare indeed. That is not definition, attempts reflecting discipline production church, most Pentecostal genre of
specialized articles sermons, variety of
written an enormous distinctives such as “Baptism glossolalia, healing theological topics. Partly there has been hesitancy theological literature has been provided in
hagiography, biography, dance. There are also a Pentecostal theologians have
discussing Pentecostal gifts,”
that Pentecostal writers have not explored their own theological traditions. To the contrary, Pentecostal scholars have produced an extensive literature of theological reflection.
majority have been in genre
other than that of systematic theology which, by to
comprehensive overview of theology, a distinct perspective, following the norms of that academic which have evolved since the third Christian century of
Like the rest of the Christian theological in
periodicals, hymnody, testimony, liturgy and
developed oral traditions.
of volumes in the
Holy Spirit,” “spiritual and
prophecy as well as the entire range
Pentecostalism drew converts primarily from various pre-existing ecclesial and theological traditions, to
Pentecostal vision in a single work.
Somdal’s volume is therefore worthy
of note for its genre
as well as readable I for both the informed laity
and the Segments of the text were originally written in Kenya. Therefore portions of the volume (to
which I do not have access) were
English and Swahili in Nairobi during the past
decade. The project was
finally completed during a furlough in True to its mission origins, the final product was
designed so that it could be used as a study
book in Norwegian Pentecostal congregations.
of this essay
is to examine Somdal’s its
being professional theologians.’ for use Oslo.
work in the context of Theological Seminary *David
is Associate Professor of Church History at Christian in Indianapolis, Indiana.
‘ half Somdal, Tro og Laere.
Et forsok paen samlet presentasjon av tro pinsevennenes og laere (Oslo: Filadelfiaforlaget, 1990).
the Pentecostal systematic theological writing.’
Therefore attention will be given
to Somdal’s Pentecostal predecessors with no pretension to exhaustiveness. I am well aware that other candidates for inclusion can be suggested. Hopefully, this brief catalogue of Pentecostal systematic theologies will
provoke someone to expand
the list and to provide a more detailed analysis of the
Earlier Pentecostal Systematic Theologies North American Pentecostals Writing Systematic Theologies.
As a Pentecostal systematic theology, Somdal’s work takes its place among a select group
of volumes. These include efforts by
several Americans. What appear
to be the two earliest attempts at a systematic overview of Pentecostal theology were both published about 1919. Pentecostal Truth by
F. M. Britton was a collection of sermons dealing quite systematically with a number of theological issues as the subtitle indicates.3 The appended autobiographical statement qua testimony suggested the author’s unease with the result. The system
important, Britton acknowledged, primarily as it is lived out in an individual life of faithful Christian living
within the church. The other effort was the less systematic volume
Charles Parham, The Everlasting Gospel.4 This was an attempt to
interpret the events of the second decade of the twentieth century (World War
of Nations, war as public and foreign policy) in light of the a Pentecostal theological analysis.
He began with the creation, moved to eschatology and back to Noah whose experience was
presented as proof that a post-millennial analysis of war–war will purify
and result in a greater good–was untenable. Interspersed were
significant analyses of
sin, redemption, the
church, personal salvation and Baptism in the
2 Discussion is limited to book length or multivolume works.
other material in this Certainly arguments could be made for including survey.
information on items missed. I have deliberately excluded the myriad of volumes which function as Disciplines (in the Methodist tradition of the term) or appreciate “Constitutions.” These are of interest for A sampling: Constitucion de la analyzing intercultural creedal Iglesia Cristiana de “Las Asambleas de Dios” en la development.
Manual de doctrinas Republica Mexicana (Mexico, D. F.: Imprenta Avalos, 1946); y reglamento local de la Conferencia Evangelica de las Asambleas de Dios en Honduras, Revisión 1990 (San Pedro Sula: Pan de Vida, 1990); Reglement local des Assembiges de Dieu en Haiti, 1957 (Port-au-Prince: Imprimerie normas y constitucion de la Pentecostal de Cuba Theodore, 1957); Reglamento, Iglesia Evangelica (Habana: Libreria “La Antorcha,” n.d.). ‘ Frances Marion Britton, Pentecostal Truth; or, Sermons on Sanctification, the
Regeneration, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, the Second Coming of Jesus, etc., Together with a Chapter on the Life of the Author (Royston, GA: Publishing House of the Pentecostal Holiness Church, 1919).
‘Charles F. Parham, The Everlasting Gospel (n.p.: n.p. 1919/1920). Cfr. the discussion of James R. Goff, Jr., Fields White Unto Harvest Charles F. Parham and the A1issionary Origins of Pentecostalism (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988), 155.
Another generation of American Pentecostal systematizing efforts were produced by a trio of Assemblies of God theologians: P. C. Nelson, Danish bom founder of what is now Southwestern Assemblies of God College in
Waxahachie, Texas; Myer Pearlman, Scottish bom professor at Central Bible College in
Springfield, Missouri; and, Ernest S.
Williams, Assemblies of God General Superintendent and Professor at Central Bible College.5 The
of these efforts was exclusively the formation of a theologically literate clergy.
Each was based on a discernable model from other American Evangelical traditions.6 None made an effort to understand the theological developments within Pentecostalism. The most creative and clearly Pentecostal systematic theological exposition was that of Patricia D. Gruits whose volume Understanding God was written from the perspective of the “New Order of the Latter Rain” and therefore did not circulate widely
in the rapidly institutionalizing denominations.’
The Church of God of Prophecy with
Cleveland, Tennessee, has been quite productive of
systematic theological works. M. A.
Tomlinson, R. O.
and James Stone made interesting contributions.’
Clearly, however, the most significant volume was that of Raymond M. Pruit entitled, Fundamentals of
the Faith.9 The large tome provided an overview of Wesleyan-Pentecostal theology as the author developed a rationale for the importance of sanctification in the process of
There was a token tip
to Fundamentalism as inerrancy is affirmed but that doctrine did not become a controlling hermeneutic for the work.’° Of the American ‘P. C. Nelson, Bible Doctrines: A Handbook on Pentecostal Theology (Enid, OK: South Western Press, 1936), Myer Pearlman, Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible (Springfield, MO:
Gospel Publishing House, 1937) and Ernest S.
Williams, Systematic Theology 3 vols. (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1953). G. W. Lane, Doctrine of the New Testament in Ten Great Subjects: Sin and Sins; Atonement; Justification; Sanctification; Water Baptism; Baptism of the
Holy Ghost; New Testament Church; Controversy of Financial Systems; Divine Healing; Answer to Eternal Security (Cincinnati, OH:
n.p., n.d.) also deserves mention in this context.
6This observation was first made by
D. William Faupel, The American Pentecostal Movement: A Bibliographical Essay (B. L. Fisher Library Occasional Bibliographic Papers, 2; Wilmore, KY: B. L. Fisher ‘ Patricia D.
Gruits, Understanding God
Library, 1972), 33.
(Detroit: Evangel Press, 1962).
I owe this reference to D. W. 8 M. A.
Tomlinson, Basic Bible Beliefs (Cleveland, TN: White Wing Publishing House, 1961); R O. Covey, These Necessary Things (Cleveland, TN: White Wing Publishing House, 1968); and, James Stone, An Introduction to Basic Theology (Cleveland, 9
TN: White Wing Publishing House, 1971).
Raymond M. Pruitt, Fundamentals of the Faith (Cleveland, TN: White Wing Publishing House, 1981).
“Pruitt, Fundamentals, 27: “The Bible claims to be an inerrant record of the revelation which God gave to holy men who wrote as the Holy Spirit moved them.” Ironically, this claim is affirmed on the basis of a few biblical passages which make no such affirmation. The doctrine of inerrancy, however, does not become a 3
Pentecostal contributions to the genre
systematic theology Pruit’s volume demonstrates most clearly a keen awareness of the larger theological and
philosophical disciplines, both within and outside of Pentecostal circles.
Church of God (Cleveland) scholars have produced a number of significant volumes. James L.