Tongues As A Sign Towards A Sacramental Understanding Of Pentecostal Experience

Tongues As A Sign Towards A Sacramental Understanding Of Pentecostal Experience

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61 Tongues as a Sign: Towards a Sacramental Understanding of Pentecostal Experience Frank D. Macchia* Simon Tugwell observed that most classical Pentecostals’ do not regard baptism and the eucharist as “sacramental” in significance. Instead of functioning as visible signs of God’s presence to save, the principle sacraments of baptism and the eucharist among Pentecostals appeared to Tugwell to be tied more closely with human acts of repentance and testimonies of faith. Of significant interest, however, is Tugwell’s recognition of the “sacramental” character of Pentecostal speaking in tongues. He noted that, for Pentecostals, glossolalia signified God’s presence here and now. Rather than representing mere emotionalism, tongues made God present for Pentecostals in a special, audibly identifiable way. As a Catholic, Tugwell felt most at home in this aspect of Pentecostal worship and speculated that tongues might provide a fruitful point of departure for future Pentecostal/Catholic dialogue.’ Scholars of Pentecostalism, such as William Samarin and Walter Hollenweger, have also noted a sacramental element in the Pentecostal use of glossolalia. Samarin argued that tongues for Pentecostals represented a “heightened awareness of God’s presence,” such as one normally finds in response to the eucharist in sacramental communions. As a “linguistic symbol of the sacred,” tongues says, “God is here.”3 In this context, Hollenweger offers the provocative statement that tongues is the “cathedral of the poor,” signifying God’s majestic presence for people who cannot afford to worship in gothic church settings.’ Most Pentecostals are uncomfortable with the term “sacrament” because of the association of the term with an “institutionalization” of the Spirit or with “formalistic” liturgical traditions. Under the influence of a Reformed (especially Zwinglian) critique of sacramentalism, many Pentecostals fear that any use of the term “sacrament” would imply an understanding of sacramental efficacy as necessitated by a causative dynamic intrinsic to the elements, thereby institutionalizing or *Frank D. Macchia is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God, Lakeland, Florida. ‘ The term “Pentecostal” throughout this article is used in reference to the classical Pentecostal movement. 2 Simon Tugwell, “The Speech-Giving Spirit, A Dialogue with `Tongues’,” in New Heaven? New Earth? An Encounter with Pentecostalism, ed. S. IL. : 151. Tugwell, et. al. (Springfield, Templegate, 1976), ‘ William Samarin, Tongues of 2vfen and Angels (New York: Macmillan, 1972), 154, 232. 4 Walter Hollenweger, Geist und Materie (Interkulturelle Theologie, 3; Muenchen: Chr. Kaiser Verlag 1988), 314-315. ========1========62 formalizing the free Spirit or grace of God. Such a belief would imply for Pentecostals a denial of their cherished belief in the unmediated gracious presence of God conveyed directly to the believer by the Holy Spirit. Do Pentecostals consistently hold to such a view of experiencing God? Morton Kelsey would answer in the affirmative. He is convinced that Pentecostalism advocates an experience of God that is unmediated and direct. For Kelsey, glossolalia serves to grant the believer direct access to God that bypasses rational and liturgical forms of mediation. 5 In a similar vein, Karl Rahner viewed “enthusiastic” worship as a means of achieving an immediate experience of God that calls into question institutional, rational and sacramental forms of mediation between God and humanity, thereby providing a context for possible institutional renewal.6 Such views rightly draw our attention to the role that tongues play in bypassing, even calling into question, liturgical forms of sacramental mediation. Yet, such views do not adequately take into consideration the role of tongues as an audible means of making God present that may also be viewed as “sacramental” in significance. Pentecostal misgivings described above concerning the term “sacrament” are not wholly without historical or theological justification. Pentecostalism has inherited from reformation–both classical and radical–and pietistic movements a keen awareness of the dangers of institutionalizing or formalizing the Spirit of God. But such misgivings are one-sided and mainly justified in relation to a neo-scholastic Catholic understanding of “sacrament” that has been radically questioned by contemporary Catholic theologians, such as Karl Rahner and E. Schillebeeckx. As we will have occasion to note, this more recent Catholic sacramental theology views the sacraments primarily as occasions for a personal encounter between God and the believer.’ Rahner does not locate sacramental efficacy in some kind of material causation necessitated by the elements as elements. Rather, he deals with the question of sacramental efficacy only in the context of the sign value of the sacrament. This redefinition does not mean that Rahner holds to a simplistic understanding of “sign” as an intellectual reference to some other reality yet to be experienced. For Rahner, the reality signified becomes present and is experienced through the visible sign in the process of signification. The reality signified is actually made . ‘Morton Kelsey, Tongue-Speaking: An Experiment in Spiritual Experience (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 218-233. ‘Karl Rahner, “Religious Enthusiasm and the Experience of Grace,” Theological Investigations, V. XVI (New York: Seabury, 1979), 35-59. ‘ Note, E. Schillebeeckx, Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1963), and the essays on the sacraments by Rahner in V. IV (New York: Seabury, 1982): “The Theology of the Theological Investigations, 221-252; “The Word and the Eucharist,” 253-286; “The Presence of Christ in Symbol,” the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,” 287-311. ========2========”souls” signification, 63 present in the process of signification, in a way analogous to how we as are made present as “bodies.” Through sacramental 8 the eschatological presence of God is realized among believers. Might we extend the analogy to say that sacramental signification is analogous to the way in which we as embodied “souls” to others in language? Do Pentecostals not regard God as uniquely present through glossolalic signification? not Rahner’s view of “sacrament” are present May understand why they regard tongues Perhaps Paul Tillich noted about self-disclosure of God and that this integral connection Tillich’s descriptions broad help Pentecostals to as such a significant medium for to empower believers for service? for the term “sacrament” in relation emphasis on the divine its role of signification, in the sense We might add here what between the free and the in ways similar to Rahner’s and of the role of tongues as we may learn nothing essentially signification to a Pentecostal initial evidence of Spirit baptism. something valuable about Yet, the Pentecostal uneasiness ignored or easily dismissed from recent sacramental Glossolalia is a different free, dramatic, Spirit. be one-sided but reveals the realization of God’s presence a Pentecostal appreciation to tongues would be helped by a stronger initiative in freely granting tongues of “making present” divine empowerment. the integral connection the physical/audible reality that becomes the occasion in which this self-disclosure is encountered. Tillich maintains between the divine revelation physical/audible sign is realized from the divine initiative, as God takes the sign up into God’s own self-disclosure. Tillich refers to this process as a “kairos” event.9 9 Tongues function for Pentecostals of “sacrament,” even if we are using the term in a or “analogical” sense. Speaking in tongues is integral to the experience of Spirit baptism for Pentecostals and is the audible medium for realizing the presence of God to empower and heal. There is alien in such understandings of sacramental understanding To the contrary, our own spirituality through such insights. with liturgical traditions must not be in an enthusiasm to incorporate insights theologies into Pentecostal traditions. kind of “sacrament” conveyed in formalized and structured liturgies. Glossolalia accents the and unpredictable move of the Spirit of God, while the liturgical traditions stress an ordered and predictable encounter with the The allergic response of Pentecostals to liturgical worship may a valuable accent on the spontaneity and freedom of the Spirit in worship. There is implied a “chaotic”‘° than that which is or g Rahner, “Theology of the 9Pau1 Symbol.” Tillich, The Protestant Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), 94-112. 10 of course, general order in charismatic manifestations is taught in I Corinthians 14 and honored by Pentecostals, at least in principle. But, by liturgical standards, there is a “chaotic,” even playful, element to Pentecostal worship that can appear ========3========64 “inchoate”” sacramentality in Pentecostal worship that was formed in protest to any attempt at a formalization or objectification of the Spirit in liturgical rites. This insight serves to explain the nonsacramental approach to the liturgical rites of baptism and the eucharist among Pentecostals, but also the presence of the sacramental element in the free and spontaneous manifestation of tongues. This author believes that a reflection on glossolalia as a sacramental sign in dialogue with Catholic and Reformed theologies, especially in relation to the function of tongues as initial evidence of Spirit baptism, can contribute much to Pentecostal theology and spirituality. We must not forget that the dramatic sign of tongues in Acts 2:4 is followed in 2:42 by the “breaking of bread” among believers. Sacramental traditions would accent this latter sign in reading Acts, while Pentecostals would accent the former. In our various readings of Acts chapter 2, what can we learn from each other? Tongues as Initial Evidence in the Book of Acts Tongues as “initial evidence” of Spirit baptism is perhaps the most enigmatic and controversial of classical Pentecostal beliefs. There can be little doubt that tongues serve as an apostolic sign for most Pentecostals, signaling an evidence of the Spirit’s anointing for service that connects pentecostal believers with the initial apostolic anointing for service. The exegetical argument for this evidential logic is based on the prominence of tongues in the original Jewish baptism of the Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2. The presence of tongues in both of the major Gentile Spirit baptisms (Acts 10, 19) visibly connects the Jewish and Gentile experiences of the Spirit. Acts 10:44-46 is central in connecting the Gentile Spirit baptisms with the original Jewish experience on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecostals have argued for a “pattern” of tongues in Acts that implies the kind of visible links just noted between the early Jewish and Gentile communities.’2 The pattern suggests that there is indeed a special connection between tongues and Spirit baptism in the book of Acts. This connection is sought after in current Pentecostal worship services. Pentecostals wish to become a part of the Acts “pattern” that connected early Jewish and Gentile experiences of the Spirit. The Pentecostals wish to be connected to these ancient communities so that the story of the Book of Acts might continue in their contemporary story. Tongues as initial evidence becomes the primary means by which strange or threatening to those not accustomed to such worship. Such “chaos” can remind us that, the need for order aside, the Spirit is not under our absolute control. “Rex Davis, “Living Liturgically: The Charismatic Contribution,” in A eds. D. Martin and P. Mullen Strange Gifts? Guide to Charismatic Renewal, (Oxford: Basil `I Blackwell, 1984). Gary B. McGee, “Early Pentecostal Hermeneutics: Tongues as Evidence in the Book of Acts,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B. McGee (Peabody, MA. : Hendrickson, 1991),96-118. ========4========this continuation with the book of Acts 65 of the biblical story can occur. The process by which Pentecostals arrive at this conclusion is not so much a rationalistic inductive method of biblical interpretation in the context of Pentecostal effort to live the book of Acts, Pentecostals by which to justify certain expectations moves in freedom and power. The key expectation is the occurrence of tongues when the Spirit empowers believers for service in the kingdom ‘ of God. The Pentecostal biblical narrative controversy “pattern” the narratives the experience of the Spirit practice. For Luke, of Jesus is told of the Spirit for in accordance with of experience” as it is a creative interaction worship. In their have discovered a pattern in worship when the Spirit conclusions from between Jesus and practice of drawing theological is no longer a major point of contention. The point of is whether or not one is justified in drawing the tongues from the narratives of Acts. Eduard Schweizer argued that of Acts resist any interpretation that seeks to determine in advance through an ideology or church the Spirit is experienced anew each time the story and embraced in faith. What determines the experience Acts is the story of Jesus alone. The Spirit moves only a Christological determination. Schweizer finds “analogies (Erfahrungsanalogien) the early Church created by the Spirit in new and unexpected ways each the Spirit is experienced. Such analogies would include anointing, and miracles. The analogies imply that not primarily objecting to patterns of experience reflected in Acts that give the communities of the early Church a sense of with Jesus and, by extension, objecting to external human efforts to determine the move of the Spirit over and beyond the proper Christological time proclamation, persecution Schweizer is continuity work.’3 interesting . that of Acts 2:1-13 with for Luke in providing among themselves. He is determination of the Spirit’s analogies of Spirit baptism/tongues Can not tongues be viewed in the light of Schweizer’s experience created by the Spirit between Jesus and the Church? It is Peter responded to the phenomenon the statement in 2:26 that Jesus’ heart was glad and tongxie rejoiced at his resurrection. Did not Luke intend to imply that the apostolic tongues of Acts 2:4 was analogous to this glad tongue of Jesus? Does evidential tongues not play a special role ‘ an analogy between the praises of Jewish and Gentile churches in anticipation of the victory of the imminent parousia and the Christ who rejoiced prior to his resurrection for his near victory and humanity? To answer these questions in the affirmative would not necessarily imply that we are creating a fixed ideology or cultic “law” of the Spirit that would deny divine this more radical step is sometimes as the mediator between God freedom and sovereignty,14 though “Eduard Schweizer, “Plaedoyer der Verteidigung in Sachen: Modeme Theologie versus Lukas,” Theologische Literaturzeitung 105 (April 1980): 2=42-252. I. Lederle, “Initial Evidence and the Charismatic Movement: An “Henry ========5========66 taken by Pentecostals in efforts to guarantee the reception of Spirit baptism by mimicking tongues or by making disparaging judgments concerning those who do not participate in this gift. Pentecostals have been primarily concerned in their reading of Acts with the unique role of tongues in helping to grant visible, Christologically determined links between the experiences of the Spirit in worship among diverse communities. The activity of the Spirit in inspiring such visible links and the tendency of faith to participate in them grant diverse churches a sense of visible continuity in worship across the gaps of space and time. This visible linkage is an aspect of what grants our encounter with God its “sacramental” quality. That these links can be developed into a fixed law for the purpose of binding and guaranteeing the Spirit’s presence is indeed possible. The temptation is always present to trust in tongues instead of in the God whose presence is realized in these glossolalic utterances. Such a temptation is present with any sacramental experience of the Spirit. But initial evidence in Pentecostal worship does not have to be interpreted in this way. Visible continuities in Acts among diverse experiences of the Spirit is not the same phenomena as ideological or institutional attempts to manipulate the Spirit. Glossolalia . is, of course, not the only visible link among the experiences of the Spirit in Acts between Jew and Gentile. There are other charismatic signs, such as healing, that function for Luke to manifest the freedom and power of the Spirit in and through the diverse witness of the Church. Pentecostals, however, grant tongues a primacy among charismatic signs in signifying the empowerment of the Spirit. There have been non-Pentecostal scholars, such as Herman Gunkel’s and James Dunn,’6 who have noted that Luke does seem to grant tongues a special role in connecting the Jewish and Gentile experiences of the Spirit. But this role granted by Luke to tongues in Acts has been attributed to the enthusiastic element in Luke’s theology, an element allegedly of little-to-no theological significance for the Church today. Pentecostals have read the book of Acts differently. But the debate over the pattern of initial evidence in Acts can not cease with the question of Luke’s original intention or theology. The process of reading biblical narrative and interacting with its various elements is Ecumenical Appraisal,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B. McGee (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, 1991), 131-141. “”If we intend to understand the view of the Spirit cherished in the then apostolic age, we must begin from the Spirit’s most striking characteristic activity, that of glossolalia.” Hermann Gunkel, The Influence of the Holy Spirit, trans. R. A. Harrisville, P. A. Quanbeck II (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 30; note also 25. “Note, for example, James Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, An Inquiry Into the Character of Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977), 177-182. ‘ ========6========67 more complex and creative than a mere historical investigation into the original intention of an author/editor.” When a Pentecostal hears of “signs” of the Spirit or of the grace of God, he or she thinks immediately of the whirlwind experience of Pentecost with tongues of fire. Of significance, as we have mentioned, is Luke’s reference to a different order of signs in Acts 2 that may be found in the apostolic breaking of bread. This apostolic sign is not the dramatic and theophanic manifestation of God’s presence such as one finds in the whirlwind experience of God at Pentecost. It is a far cry from tongues of fire in the context of the sound of a violent wind. Yet, the breaking of bread is placed side-by-side with dramatic signs such as tongues in Acts 2, without any theological integration or explanation. Our task as pentecostal theologians is to set about the task of integrating them. The Theological Basis for Initial Evidence Our discussion thus far has still not arrived at the full doctrine of initial evidence as it is commonly understood among Pentecostals. The terms “initial” and “evidence” carry theological nuances that are based upon, but still proceed beyond, the testimony of Acts. Initial evidence has never been defended by Pentecostals on solely biblicistic grounds. The charge that Pentecostals arrive at a full-blown doctrine of initial evidence from a simplistic interpretation of isolated texts in Acts is itself simplistic. This author is convinced that profound historical and theological influences have contributed to the role of initial evidence among Pentecostals. Is this not the case with the worship or sacramental tradition of any church? Imagine how many questions could be raised if representatives from mainline churches were to defend their understanding of the eucharist on the basis of the New Testament witness alone. Theologically, Pentecostals have commonly justified initial evidence with some kind of integral connection between Spirit baptism and the experience of tongues. W. T. Gaston stated in 1918: “Tongues seems included and inherent in the larger experience of Spirit baptism.”‘8 Donald Johns represents a contemporary voice to the same effect: “It seems to me that speaking in tongues is essentially one kind of experience, produced by a certain kind of contact with the divine Spirit. The first time this kind of contact occurs is the initiatory event of being baptized in the Spirit.”9 According to Johns, the kind of contact with the Spirit that produces or involves the experience of tongues is an for example, to Larry W. Hurtado, “Normal, but not a Norm: Initial Evidence and the New “Contrary, Testament,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B. McGee (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, 1991), 189-201. ‘8 Quoted in Lederle, “Initial Evidence,” 128. ‘9Donald A. Johns, “Some New Directions in the Hermeneutics of Classical Pentecostalism’s Doctrine of Initial Evidence,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B. McGee (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, 1991), 145-167. . . _ ========7========68 overwhelming immersion or baptism of the human psyche by the person and power of the Spirit, producing a prayerful response beyond the scope of human capacities. Others have viewed tongues as the necessary yielding of the total person to one’s immersion in the Spirit through Spirit baptism. Assumed here is the power of language to express the total person, or the “tongue” as the most difficult to yield to God, the last hold-out to the kind of submission implied by the overwhelming experience of Spirit baptism.2° This author has portrayed tongues as a free and transcendent response to the free and transcendent move of the Spirit.21 Murray Dempster views tongues as a new language signifying what God is doing in Spirit baptism, namely, creating new integrated communities that witness to the transforming power of God in history.22 The list of integral connections between tongues and Spirit baptism could be expanded. What they imply is that Pentecostals have not connected tongues to Spirit baptism by a capricious external law, but through a theology of Spirit baptism that includes tongues as an integral aspect of the experience. It is for this reason that Pentecostals would find strange the argument of J. Ramsey Michaels that the Spirit, and not tongues, is the evidence of our encounter with God. 21 Pentecostals cannot separate tongues from one’s s initial experience of the Spirit in Spirit baptism. In this light we can understand why classical Pentecostals such as Donald Gee insist that the glory and power of the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit would depart if the initial evidence doctrine were forsaken.2’ It is interesting that Pentecostals would make a visiblelaudible phenomenon an integral part of their experience of the Spirit. Does this not sound more “sacramental” than “evidential?” The term, “evidence,” seems too scientific, simplistic, and one-dimensional to capture all of the theological nuances implied by the connections Pentecostals make between tongues and Spirit baptism. The term “sacrament” does imply some kind of integral connection between the sign and the divine action signified therein. We have noted Paul Tillich’s argument concerning Christianity’s need of a “sacramental” element that implies an integral connection between the revelation of God and the physical/acoustic reality used as a sign of this divine self-disclosure. According to Tillich, the “Protestant principle,” most consistently applied by the Reformed tradition, seeks to uproot the sacramental element of Christianity by a 201. L. Hall, “A Oneness Pentecostal Looks at Initial Evidence,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B. McGee (Peabody MA.: Hendrickson, 1991), 182. 2 Frank D. Macchia, “Sighs too Deep for Words: Toward a Theology of Glossolalia,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1 (October 1992): 47-73. W. ‘2Murray Dempster, “The Church’s Moral Witness: A Study of Glossolalia in Luke’s z’ Theology of Acts,” Paraclete 23 (Winter 1989): 1-7. J. Ramsey Michaels, “Evidences of the Spirit, or the Spirit as Evidence? Some Non-Pentecostal Reflections,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B. McGee (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, 1991), 202-218. 24 Quoted in H. Lederle, “Initial Evidence,” 132. ========8========69 radical emphasis on the freedom of the Spirit. In an attempt to avoid a “demonic,” idolatrous objectification of the Spirit in visible forms, the Protestant principle for Tillich even threatens a legitimate sacramental element that integrates the sign with the free divine self-disclosure. 25 In fact, Tillich’s entire notion of a “kairos” event seeks to pave a path between a radical notion of divine freedom that detaches the divine self-disclosure from a visible form, and a demonic objectification of the divine action in the form itself In Tillich’s thought, the kairos event occurs when God freely takes the visible human response up into itself to be used as a vehicle of the divine self-disclosure. Though God is never to be identified with the human or creaturely phenomenon used in the kairos event, this phenomenon is allowed genuinely to participate in the divine action. This understanding of sacramental signification is consistent with recent efforts at a philosophy of signs that would associate signification with “making present,”‘6 only the divine initiative and freedom is made the focus of attention. This author believes that Pentecostals regard tongues in this way, as a crucial aspect of the sacramental element to which Tillich referred. Pentecostals regard tongues as a kind of primary sacrament or kairos event that signifies, while participating in, the empowerment of the Spirit in the Christian life. Tongues are the “new sign of the Christian Church,” according to Thomas Barratt, 27 the “root and stem” out of which all other spiritual gifts grow, according to Edward Irving,2’ and the “spiritual rest of the new covenant,” according to the Oneness Pentecostal J. L. Hall.29 If such characterizations are not “sacramental” in significance, what is? This author recalls the Catholic/Protestant discussion between German theologians Walter Kasper and Gerhard Sauter concerning the Church as the “place of the Spirit” (Ort des Geistes).3° The authors discussed the tension between the Catholic emphasis on visible means of grace and the Reformed accent on the sovereignty and freedom of the Spirit. This discussion is actually only a small part of a broader Catholic/Protestant attempt over the last few decades to proceed beyond the traditional impasse between an extreme emphasis on the freedom of the Spirit and an accent on sacramental means of grace, which Tillich foresaw as a central problem for an ecumenical theology. For example, Reformed theologian, James F. White, admits, 25 26 Tillich, Protestant Era, 94-112. 21 See, for example, Rahner, “The Theology of the Symbol.” 2$ Cited in McGee, “Early Pentecostal Hermeneutics,” 126. Cited in David W. Dorries, “Edward Irving and the ‘Standard Sign’ of Spirit Baptism,” in Initial Evidence, ed. G. B. McGee ?Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, 1991),49. “A 29 Hall, Oneness Pentecostal Looks at Initial Evidence,” 181. ‘o Walter Kasper and Gerhard Sauter, Kirche-Ort des Geistes (Basel: Verlag Herder, 1976). ========9========70 “Protestantism has tended to neglect humanity’s need for the visible and the tangible, despite Calvin’s warning that our humanity demanded such means.”3′ Perhaps Calvin can help us all beyond the impasse described by Tillich between visible means of grace and the sovereign freedom of the Spirit. After all, it has been the Zwinglian influence in Reformed theology that made this theology most vulnerable to the one-sided use of the “Protestant principle” lamented by Tillich.32 This author believes that the Pentecostal sacramental spirituality implied by initial evidence can help us to push beyond the impasse described by Tillich. Tongues implies a radical emphasis on the freedom of the Spirit and the importance of the divine initiative in religious experience, the typically Reformed emphasis, or what Tillich referred to as the “Protestant principle.” Yet, the experience of the Spirit for Pentecostals includes a visible/audible human response that signifies the divine presence in the sense of actually participating in making it present. Tongues as a sign is given in divine freedom but is also a visible context in which the experience of God is received and manifested. It is both free and sacramental. It is unfortunate that most non-Pentecostal scholars have wrongly characterized Pentecostal spirituality as a radical subjectivism.33 Nothing can be further from the truth. By stressing that Spirit baptism and tongues is for the empowerment of the Church in its witness for Christ, Pentecostals have parted significantly from the conservative Evangelical preoccupation with subjective conversion. When most Pentecostals read Acts, they are as much, if not more, impressed by the mediation of an empowered Church in the spread of the Gospel than with the ordo salutis (order of salvation) of individual souls, although this concern is also stressed. Also relevant is Peter Hocken’s observation concerning the prominence given to the physical dimension of worship among Pentecostals.’ Added to this is the stress of 31 James F. White, Sacraments as God’s Self-Giving (Nashville: Abingdon, 1983), 25. – 32 For example, Reformed theologian Ross Mackenzie the vast the eucharist as a mere memorial Zwinglian influence on the Reformed understanding of regrets and on its infrequent observance in many Reformed churches around the world. He, as with a number of other Reformed theologians, desires a rediscovery of Calvin’s view of the eucharist as conveying the spiritual presence of Christ. Calvin also advocated frequent observance of the meal. “Reformed and Roman Catholic Understandings of the Eucharist,” in The Eucharist in Ecumenical Dialogue, ed. L. Swindler (New York: Paulist, 1976), 70-75. This author has witnessed first hand the result of the Zwinglian influence upon the Reformed churches in Switzerland, in which the eucharist is celebrated infrequently and with little-to-no sacramental significance. “Kasper and Sauter, Kirche-Ort des Geistes, 24. 14 Peter Hocken, “The Significance and Potential of Pentecostalism,” in New Heaven? New Earth? An Encounter with Pentecostalism, ed. S. Tugwell, et. al. (Springfield, IL.: Templegate, 1976), 15-67. This author recalls noting a remark made by Fr. Hocken at the 1990 meeting of the Conference of ========10========71 Pentecostals on physical healing as an essential element of the full gospel. This emphasis on the physical does not preclude the radical freedom of the divine/human encounter implied in tongues,35 but it does question the interpretation of Pentecostal spirituality as subjectivistic. It now seems clear to this author that the Pentecostal distinctive includes both emphases on the physical dimension of worship and the freedom of the Spirit in a unique kind of sacramental spirituality. Set in an eschatological context, tongues signifies the radically free power “of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4), liberating us to respond to God in new and unforeseen ways. But the radically free Spirit is not hidden nor without present, visible fulfillment. Tongues signify the new relationships and communities transformed and empowered to witness of the Gospel to the world. Speaking in tongues as initial evidence, or better as a “sign,” of Spirit baptism in the context of worship finds fulfillment in a liberating witness in the whole of life. How to bridge tongues with a liberating witness in the midst of routine programs and fixed structures of social life is a major problem for Pentecostals, one which a new focus on the ecclesial sacraments may aid Pentecostals in solving. Tongues and Ecclesial Sacraments This author has been using the term “sacrament” in the broad or analogical sense, beyond the individual “principal” sacraments of the eucharist and baptism. Tillich used the term “sacrament” in a broad sense to refer to both the preaching and ritual aspects of the church service. There are recent trends in Catholic theology that advocate a broad sacramental spirituality based on Christ as the primary sacrament of God’s presence and the Church as a sacrament in a derivative sense. There is also a renewed Catholic interest in the connections between the principal sacraments and every day life in the world. Behind this connection is the effort to avoid an ecclesiocentric theology and to open the sacraments to the liberating work of the kingdom of God in the new creation. The new stress on eschatology in the sacraments has led to a more dynamic and personalistic, as opposed to a metaphysical, understanding of sacramental worship. The sacraments are not understood in this newer Catholic sacramental thought as objects containing the divine presence as a static substance. The sacraments are understood now as contexts for a dynamic and personal divine/human encounter.36 Such trends have opened the door to greater Catholic/Protestant agreement on the sacraments. One can find such an atmosphere of agreement, for example, in the Lima document (BEM). Yet, there are those who find a broad sacramental spirituality to be Pentecostal/Charismatic Research in Europe concerning the need for Pentecostals to seek a 3′ theology of signs. In one sense, this article is a response to this challenge. This theme is developed in Macchia, “Sighs too Deep for Words.” 36 Note the references cited in footnote 7. ========11========72 inconsistent with the Protestant example, theologians may Pentecostal aided by which has exposed Though tongues Eberhard Jungel, for sacramental theology may be quality of the gift. and unforeseen, participants. different from the liturgical Catholics. In fact, Catholic liturgy represent participate actively or language. 38 principle. views Christ as the sacrament of God but would not extend this to the Church nor to its worship, which he views as a celebration and interpretation of Christ the sacrament.3′ In this debate, Pentecostal find themselves agreeing as much with the newer Catholic sacramental theology as with the Reformed stress on the radical freedom of the Spirit. dialogue with Catholic the extensive research on tongues over the past few decades, the human, even ritualistic, are in a real sense spontaneous various group mechanisms have been discovered for inspiring their use, though these mechanisms are often unintentional and unnoticed This group stimulus means that tongues are not radically sacraments valued so highly among Richard Baer has noted that both tongues and encounters with God in worship in which we but which exceed the capacities of human thought spontaneous charismatic sign by worship is planned guidelines. Historically, spontaneous Yet, there are important differences between the kind of sacramental worship implied in tongues as initial sign and that which is embraced in Catholic sacramental theology. As we have noted, tongues represent a that accents the free and unforeseen aspects of the divine/human encounter. and orchestrated wholly satisfied On the other hand, liturgical according to well developed charismatic signs of the Spirit sacramental worship within the worship, the distinctions such as tongues have tended to flourish among fringe communities not with the formal liturgies of dominant church institutions, as a kind of countercultural Church. In such a free-spirited sacramental between clergy and laity, male and female, and between the races have tended to become less important. The proliferation of charismatic signs in mainline liturgical traditions and the creation of formal liturgies in various free church movements complicate the picture and involve us in the whole complex issue of the relationship between charism (or and institution. This author believes that a thorough ecstasy) “Eberhard Jungel, “The Church as Sacrament?” in Theological Essays, trans. J. B. Webster (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), 189-213. the Reformed critique to the assumption that the Jungel rightly applies Church is to be equated with the sacrament which is Christ. But he maintains that the only other alternative is to view the Church as a “sacramental in the sense of the sacrament. A more intimate connection between Christ the sign” only celebrating and witnessing of Christ sacrament and the sacramental quality of the Church is possible without the two. equating Rahner and Tillich have struggled with such a third alternative.. “Richard Baer, “Quaker Silence, Catholic Liturgy, and Pentecostal Glossolalia: Some Functional Similarities,” in Perspectives on the New Pentecostalism, ed. R. MI: Baker Book House, 1976), 150-164. Spittler (Grand Rapids, ========12========73 exploration of this issue will be extremely important for the future of Pentecostal theology. Nevertheless, Pentecostalism represents a kind of “protest” or “inchoate” sacramentality that is critical of, yet, ironically, bears significant similarity with sacramental traditions. There are also important theological differences to consider between Catholic and Pentecostal sacramentality. For example, Catholic sacramental theology is still developed in the context of the Church as the institutional embodiment of the risen Christ, and, as such, as the extension in history of the incarnate Word. There are admirable efforts among Catholic theologians at making this divine presence in the institution of the Church a dynamic and open presence. But the dominant accent on the institutional and ecclesial aspects of sacramental worship makes the Church vulnerable to the danger of restricting the free move of the Spirit to predictable and manipulatable institutionalized forms that are confined to narrow confessional boundaries and orchestrated to function in ways rarely surprising or disturbing. The kind of Pentecostal sacramental spirituality implied in tongues as initial sign arises from a theology that. seems more “theophanic” than incamational. The dramatic descent of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was a kind of theophany, accompanied by the sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire. This divine self-disclosure at Pentecost has its roots in the Old Testament theophany of God at Sinai and in the dramatic and active presence of God in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The theophany of Pentecost also pointed ahead to the final theophany of God in the parousia with signs on the earth of “blood,” “fire,” and “smoke” (Acts 2:19).39 Pentecostal spirituality has tended to highlight this theophanic theme in Scripture, developing a church life characterized by a fervent expectation for the signs and wonders of God’s Spirit. In this framework, the Church finds its Christological determination, not primarily in the incarnate Word, but in the pneumatic Christ, who is still active in signs and wonders conquering evil and establishing God’s eternal kingdom. Consistent with Pentecostal theology would be a dynamic notion of the incarnation that portrays Christ as the primary locus of God’s active presence, a view espoused by Hans Kung.4O The Church may be viewed here, not as a permanent embodiment of the incarnate Word, but as an “event” that must continually be renewed in the context of our obedient participation in God’s redemptive activity. There is, of course, much to discuss concerning ways in which various trends in Catholic sacramental theology can illuminate or be contrasted with a yet developing Pentecostal theology. Pentecostals can affirm those trends in Catholic theology that promote the presence of 39Macchia, “Sighs too Deep for Words.” 40hants Kung, Afenschwerdung Gottes (Basel: Verlag Herder, 1970). ========13========74 Christ through the Spirit as dynamic, open, and never to be taken for granted. We can give a hearty “amen” to Yves Congar’s appeal to the necessary “struggle” for the Spirit in the Church.4′ There can be little doubt that Pentecostalism is a movement within the Church that takes such a struggle with utmost seriousness. Behind this struggle is the assumption that our liturgies and sacraments are petitionary or, better, epicletic through and through. We are not driven to deny here that the sacramental elements do indeed form an integral part of the divine/human encounter, so that they do have “objective” significance. But we must not conceive of this objectivity apart from the freedom of the divine initiative and the nature of the “sacramentum” as an experienced reality. This author has found Tillich’s and Rahner’s understandings of the sacramental element of worship very helpful in arriving at a notion of sacramental experience of the Spirit that would include all of these aspects. Spontaneous signs and wonders of the Spirit, based primarily in tongues as sign, bring to the forefront the freedom and transcendence of the divine/human encounter that is only implied in formal liturgies. Karl Rahner argues that such manifestations of enthusiasm “shock” the liturgical system, making the institutional Church seem for a moment “provisional and questionable, incommensurate with the meaning it is supposed to signify.” We are suddenly “thrown back” upon an encounter with God that is ultimately beyond our capacities to understand, express or manipulate. Such a process is necessary for liturgical renewal, and for our understanding of the limited significance of the institutional dimension of the Church. According to Rahner, manifestations of enthusiasm show that the whole institutional structure of the Church, including rational language, sacraments and law, although needed to an extent in this life, “is nevertheless in itself a sign which is destined to destroy itself and disappear at the appearance of God. ,,42 The eschatological significance of tongues finds particular meaning in this context. Tongues not only signify God’s new creation and liberation in the here and now, tongues also remind us of the temporal and limited nature of our institutional boundaries, theologies, and cultic expressions. There are significant implications here for ecumenical worship and discussion. Rahner, on the other hand, locates the significance of the ecclesial sacraments in their continuity with the whole of life. The seven sacraments represent the symbols and rituals that refer one to the grace of God implied in the whole of life, especially as one seeks to be a liberating influence in the world. The eschatological presence of God encountering the believer in the liturgical sacrament only makes explicit . ” Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, V.2 (New York: Seabury, 1983), 57. 42 Rahner, “Religious Enthusiasm.” ‘ ========14========75 what is implicit in the routines and programs of our lives in relation to others What Rahner has argued concerning both charismatic manifestations and ecclesial sacraments is highly significant for our discussion. If tongues call our church institutions and formalized liturgies into question and accent a free and unpredictable encounter with the Spirit of God, the ecclesial sacraments refer us to the fact that our ecclesiastical routines, structures, and programs may also be vehicles of God’s liberating and healing grace. Similarly, if tongues point to spontaneous and unforeseen turns toward liberation and healing in the midst of the Church’s witness in the world, the ecclesial sacraments may put us in touch with the liberating grace of God as it emerges through programed and structured attempts at interpersonal and social transformation. It appears that the accent of charismatic signs is on the eschatological and free move of the Spiritus Redemptor. It is a sacramentality from “above.” The ecclesial sacraments, especially in their continuity with everyday life, tend to accent the Spiritus Creator working from within our structured responses to God. We may characterize this sacramentality as from “below.” Of course, we are dealing merely with a difference of emphasis. Could it be that these theological accents are more complementary than contradictory? Do not Pentecostals so stress the miraculous that they often detach the work of the Spirit from human efforts to create a better world? Can not our institutions, liturgies, and social programs become sanctified means of grace to a graceless world? Can a new appreciation for the ecclesial sacraments not form a bridge for Pentecostals between their charismatic spirituality and efforts at social liberation through programs and institutional structures? On the other hand, can not the “protest” or “inchoate” sacramentality of Pentecostalism serve a critical function in relation to a Catholic sacramentality, reminding us that both worship and social renewal require spontaneous and unpredictable turns toward liberation and healing, and calling for the need to question and renew our programs and institutional structures? We Pentecostals will undoubtedly find irreconcilable differences in dialogue with Catholics over the sacraments. But we must remain open to bless and be blessed in the dialogue. The same holds true with regard to our needed dialogue with the various Reformed traditions. In short, Pentecostal spirituality does not advocate an unmediated encounter with God, nor a subjectivistic emotionalism unrelated to an objective means of grace. These stereotypical characterizations have been nourished by certain tendencies in Pentecostal worship. But these “Karl Rahner, “Considerations on the Active Role of the Person in the Sacramental Event,” Theological Investigations, V. XIV (New York: Seabury, 1976), 161-184. ========15========76 characterizations cannot account Pentecostals on visible/audible free, eschatological presence above-mentioned stereotypical we be surprised element in the Pentecostal for the dominant emphasis of wonders that make God’s of a sacramental if signs and “here and now” to empower, liberate, and heal. Tongues as initial evidence of Spirit baptism, along with healing, function in this way among Pentecostals and serve to call the characterizations into question. Should by Simon Tugwell’s discovery use of tongues? The term “sacrament,” defined carefully, can shed new light on the heart of Pentecostal and open the door for fruitful ecumenical other Church traditions. Veni, Spiritus unitatis! spirituality dialogue with ========16========

1 Comment

  • Reply December 31, 2021

    Terry Wiles

    Does “sacrament” have a meaning? According to many, a sacrament has “saving grace” connected. Their belief is clearly stated as follows.

    “Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist are considered the two great Sacraments of the Gospel, as they are the two Sacraments instituted by the Lord himself unto salvation. Baptism and the Eucharist are the ordinary means by which God, through the Church, imparts His saving grace to the world”.

    If this is the definition of Sacrament then it begs the question as to whether or not the researchers have ever carefully read the doctrinal statement of the Assemblies of God concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and/or tongues as the initial physical evidence of have received said Baptism.

    Simply put the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is an action wherein Jesus is the Baptizer. The Holy Spirit comes upon the recipient who now has an enduement of power for life and service.

    Classical Pentecostals would generally reject the idea that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and/or speaking in tongues have a saving grace connected. (Yes, there are a few exceptions)

    The enduement of power enhances missional ability in many ways.

    However, the argument that separates the groups may be like straining at a fly while swallowing a camel. Perhaps there is “some” saving grace in things like water baptism, covenant marriage, confirmation, Holy Communion, anointing the sick, reconciliation (confession), and or Holy Orders.

    At least on this side of heaven those things, when done faithfully in a persons walk with Christ, being faithful in these things can an do “save” many from the destructions that sin brings upon mortal bodies and the homes that people live in.

    In the words of Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, [Christians living in a world of sin] “We do not speak great things, but we live them”.

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