Toward a Pentecostal
Michael Parra serves as Outreach Coordinator at
School in Santa Ana, California, an urban
south of Los
Angeles. Every day
Michael works with students in crisis, on the
dropping out, involved in gangs, pregnant, suicidal. He states:
Whereas some people might say, “This kid is lost,” I have an of what God can do. Some
people might say I’m optimistic because I’m But what
or see as a attitude, I would call
people optimism, positive
expectation, vibrant expectation of what God can do. Outside looking in, some might see it as youthful impetuousness, but I see it as a recognition of God’s power, and my wanting to be involved in God’s Kingdom
Michael Parra is one of perhaps millions of Pentecostal educators, tens of thousands of whom are
in formal education
To be a Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian
for the sake of simplicity, Pentecostal)
is to be one of more than 400 million
in the world who have submitted their lives to Jesus Christ and
their souls to receive the
Holy Spirit. Terminology varies,
but Pentecostals share a belief that the
did not end with the Apostles,
and miracles in the Acts of the
Apostles are not confined to the first
but that that
Spirit continues into the presents.
How do Pentecostal Christians think about and do education? How do Pentecostal
interested in how Pentecostal
experi- ence and
when we teach in formal education
and in higher education
experi- ences of Spirit
or Spirit in filling and our beliefs about the ongoing outpouring
our educational ideas and
I David B. Barrett, and Todd M. Johnson, “Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 1999,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 23:1 (January
pp. 24-25. Barrett and Pentecostal/Charismatic
population at just over 449 million in mid-1999. define this
They category as “Church members involved in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Renewal.” ”
Is there some
that Pentecostal educators have to share with the
church and with the wider world?
to be addressed:
What do Pentecostals
about how their
theology impacts their educational
and practice? .
allow us to formulate and
How do Pentecostal educators
and adapt various educational
philoso- phies ?
enable Pentecostals to further
and articulate the
their educational philosophy
The bulk of this study is descriptive and analytic in character,
covering the first three questions above in some detail, while
a preliminary framework in response to question four. This
is exploratory in nature and seeks to contribute to Pentecostal
edu- cation. The structure of this article is inductive,
specifics of Pentecostals
on their own
as educators toward the generalities
I do not presume to articulate a Pentecostal
of education in any
definitive fashion. I do
have relevance for the educational
practices of Pentecostal educators, a relevance that
opens fascinating possibilities
for further research and development.
“Pentecostal” is defined
to include those Christians who consider themselves Pentecostal or Charismatic, embracing
the works of the
first-century church as described in Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament as relevant and normative for
experience, by extension,
is defined as personal participation in Christian communities that embrace and seek the continuous
and practice the multiple
gifts of the Spirit
described in the New Testament. A subsequent study might fruitfully
various Pentecostal and Charismatic
their varied ideas of the nature of the continuous
Education is also defined
to include both the formal
or home-based, mentoring-oriented).
educator, therefore, might
be a teacher, a pastor, a mentor, a parent, or a friend who
contributes to the learning
of another. This broad definition of education also
and this is of particular sig- nificance to Pentecostals. The
focus of the
is on education in formal and
Peterson has defined a
of education as “a unified set of philosophical assumptions together
for the educa- tional
notes that the task of educational
is to bring educators into
Face-to-face contact with the large questions underlying the meaning and purpose
of life and education. To understand these questions, the student must wrestle with such issues as the nature of reality, the meaning and sources of knowledge, and the structure of values. Educational
philoso- phy bring students into a position from which they can evaluate alternative intelligent- ly ends, relate their aims to desired ends, and select
methods that harmonize with their aims. Thus a major task of educational philosophy is to help educators think
about the total educational and life process, so that they will be in a meaningfully better tion to
develop a consistent and comprehensive 3 program that will assist their students in arriving at the desired goal.3
includes interviews of Pentecostal educators, a cross
review of literature related to this topic, as well as philo- sophical
reflection. This article is also informed
a life- time of interaction with Pentecostal educators and
career as a Pentecostal educator
in a variety of educational contexts.
What Do Pentecostals
about How Their
Pentecostal educators face a dilemma. The Pentecostal movement is, among
Spirit-inspired protest against
structures and forms that obscure the truths of God’s
2 Michael L. Peterson, Philosophy of Education (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1986), 24.
3 George R. Knight, Issues and Alternatives in Educational Philosophy, 3d ed. (Berrien Springs,
MI: Andrews University Press, 1998), 3.
shared Jesus’ distaste for religious
that have become instruments of oppression.
“Woe to you experts in the law,” Jesus said, “because
the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were
have also shared the
of the Apostle
who wrote, “See to it that no one takes you cap- tive through hollow and deceptive
on human tra- dition and the basic
of this world rather than on Christ.”5 Pentecostalism is a renewed
of God’s direct intervention in one’s life, God’s
self-revelation in the world. For a Pentecostal, a second- or third- hand
of God does not satisfy. True ideas about God are no sub- stitute for God’s
makes more abstract thought,
or academic discussion about
spiritual experiences, suspect.
It is one thing to have a theology of Holy Spirit baptism. It is quite another to be baptized
in the Holy Spirit.
These attitudes toward education,
of the rationalistic vari- ety, are clearly
to twentieth-century Pentecostalism. Tertullian, in the second
differed with Justin
and Clement of Alexandria as to the value of classical education,
ques- tions : “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the
and the Church?”6 For
quote Cheryl Bridges
“What has Athens to do with Azusa Street?”
Almost six hundred
wrote in his classic The Imitation
Cease from an inordinate desire of knowing, for therein is much distrac- tion and deceit. The learned are well-pleased to seem so to others, and to be accounted wise… If thou dost more thine own reason or
than upon that power which
brings thee under the obedience of Jesus Christ, it will be long before thou become enlightened; for God industry
will have us perfectly subject unto him, that being inflamed with his love, we may transcend the narrow limits of human reason.7
formal education and the
4 Luke 11:52 (New International Version).
5 Colossians 2:8 (New International Version). All subsequent biblical references are from the New Revised Standard Version.
6 Tertullian, “Prescription Against Heretics.” in D. Bruce Lockerbie, ed.,
A Passion for Leaning:
The History of Christian Thought on Education (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 71. 7 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Press. 1984), 26; 48.
have been counterbalanced for Pentecostals
Jesus’ inclusion of the mind in the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord
God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all
mind, and with all your strength.”8 Moreover,
Jesus and his biblical
the writers of
“Be trans- formed
by the renewing
of your minds.”9
Of special interest to Pentecostals is the scholarly
of the writer of Luke-Acts, who frames his Gospel with these words: “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully
to write an
orderly account for you, most excellent
know the truth concerning
have been instructed.”10
and mind are clearly
Likewise, church leaders and reformers
the centuries have drawn
their formal education in the conviction,
encouraged by leaders like Augustine, that “all truth is God’s truth.” Several of the early leaders of the twentieth
Pentecostal movement benefited from their own
expe- rience in higher education, like E.
of the U.S. Assemblies of God, who had a Bachelor’s
a seminary degree, and three
of graduate study at the
ambivalence about formal
recog- nized the need to prepare believers to be effective students of Scripture and articulate ambassadors of Christ. Pentecostals
to establish Bible schools, then Bible
institutes, then Bible
then Christian lib- eral arts
compre- hensive universities. I I Pentecostals
and obtained advanced
degrees and Pentecostal churches
scholars. Each of the Pentecostal educators I interviewed for this
has at least a Bachelor’s degree
and almost 80 per cent have earned doctorates.
number of Pentecostals who combine a Pentecostal
with advanced formal education
8 Mark 12:30. 9 Romans 12:2. 10 Luke 1:3-4.
a summary of the development of higher education in the United States Assemblies of God, the largest denomination in Pentecostalism, see William W. Menzies. Anointed to Sen?e: The Story of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, MO:
Gospel Publishing House, 1971 ).
For this paper, I interviewed 35 Pentecostal educators either in person or via telephone or email. The profile of my interview group is as follows:
Pastors – 2 ,
Educators – 3
of these educators have
relevance for Pentecostals in higher education, since over 70 per cent of my respondents fit that
of the same
to Pentecostals in other educational
as my respondents in these other settings
tended to confirm.
Future studies of this topic would do well to focus on and compare other populations
of Pentecostal educators
those in two-thirds-world set- tings ;
in various academic
disciplines; from different
from various Pentecostal and Charismatic move- ments).
interviews included five basic
which I will list below with summaries of the responses I received. These
were meant to elicit
reflection from Pentecostal educators about the
of their Pentecostal
on their educational
and in my analysis of their responses
I try to let them
for themselves. For each
I offer a major finding, sample responses,
and some elaboration.
1: In what
own education been a “Pentecostal education”?
Pentecostal educators note a tremendous
Spirit- inspired dynamic
in their educational
of Pentecostal educators is
academically Public school teachers – 3
‘ Private Sector Human Resources Trainer – I
Educational Consultant (focusing on Sunday Schools) – 1
. Professors at Pentecostal institutions of higher education (IHEs) in the U.S. – 13 3 Professors at Pentecostal IHEs outside the U.S. – 1
Professors at non-Pentecostal IHEs – 2
Administrators at Pentecostal IHEs in the U.S. – 3
Administrators at Pentecostal IHEs non-U.S. – 3
Administrators at non-Pentecostal IHEs – I
K-12 Christian school leaders – 2
I did not attempt to select a statistically representative sample of Pentecostal educators. Instead, I sought to interview Pentecostal educators who had a formal educational experience that would have exposed them to diverse philosophies of education, them to reflect on the rele- vance of their Pentecostal experience and theology for their educational causing
philosophy. Of my
seven are women, five live outside the United States, and three are citizens of nations other than the United States. They are of diverse ethnicities, with seven
completed or are completing doctoral degrees. Approximately 70 per cent attend Assemblies of God churches, with others scattered among other Pentecostal and Twenty-six
and from the
of view of Christian service.
universities in the United States and abroad.
in terms of their commitment to the spiritual growth
of their students and their desire to be instruments of the Holy Spirit
three-quarters (73 per cent)
of these Pentecostal educators had experience
as undergraduate or graduate students in Pentecostal institutions of higher education
most had attended Pentecostal IHEs for at least
part of their undergraduate experience,
most cited nonformal dimen- sions of their Pentecostal education
mentors or family members) as more influential in their lives than the formal curriculum.
of their comments:
I learned about the church and ministry from my grandfather and from
my father. They taught me, informally, the Christian ethics of
Pentecostalism. I also learned how to interpret the world and my reality
My Pentecostal education was enriched by the corporate model of the Ivoirian
[Cote d’ Ivoire] church, which experienced a sovereign, nation- wide move of God. I was intluenced by the model of African some
well-educated, others not schooled.
Often when the formal education
at a Pentecostal IHE was mentioned, the nonformal educational/spiritual
highlight- ed :
I attended an Assemblies of God school at the undergraduate level and in that sense I suppose you could say I had a Pentecostal education. It . was not so much what was taught, but the ethos that surrounded the com- ..
Belief that learning had to be enhanced by encounter with God. Belief that God
enriched the classroom that
fullest dimension to what we were always
by experiences gave
leaming. The belief that chapel was a central
experience, not because it was ‘more spiritual’ but because , there we actualized the relationship we had with God to include more than left brain activity. In that context there was the real expectation that God would regularly intrude into the humanly devised schedule that sur- rounds formal educational activity.
Several noted a
of their “Pentecostal education”
through influences not generally associated with classical Pentecostalism:
Exposure to Catholic and Anglican Charismatics has broadened and resensitized me to the Holy Spirit’s work both personally and corporate- ly.
The great irony of my Pentecostal education is that I first
to learn about
my tradition’s history and theology when I attended a non- Pentecostal institution: Fuller
that Pentecostal education has had a very strong mentoring orientation,
pro- viding personal guidance
that Pentecostal educa- tors have not been
within their Pentecostal IHEs in reflection on the
of their Pentecostal
theology for their formal education,
mentioned that the formal curriculum in their Pentecostal IHEs had
them in asking the
ques- tion : “How does
my Pentecostal experience
and theology impact the
my discipline, my academic field, my professional
Whether at the graduate or undergraduate level or at the K-12
all those I interviewed, like most Pentecostal
have wrestled with their ideas about formal education in institutions
secular or affili- ated with other Christian
of education were not informed
which were, in some cases, hostile to Pentecostal
2: Describe a Pentecostal educator who had a particularly
sig- nificant influence on
life. If more than
one and tell about their influence on you?
Pentecostal education through
pastors, friends and
who modeled an
of mind, spirit,
tended to focus on the life
of influ- ential Pentecostal educators
God, integration of spir- it and
mind, personal integrity). Examples
of comments on the nature of their influence follow.
I could cite a number of very useful influences in my life, but I will sin-
out one: W. I. Evans. Evans was the academic dean at Central Bible Institute (now Central Bible College) when I was a student. His knowl- gle
of the Scriptures, his obvious deep fellowship with the Lord, and
his leadership in the chapel services had a great effect on me. He embodied the best features of the Pentecostal revival, in my judg- particularly
Professor Daniel E. Albrecht, Professor at Bethany College, was one of the first models I had that one could be/remain Pentecostal and still sue the life of the mind.
Dick Foth, Assemblies of God minister and former President of Bethany Bible College, represented a combination of passionate faith, joyful serv- ice, and an affirmation of the intellect integrated with the previous two disciplines.
Dr. James M. Beaty and his wife gave me a great example of what to be a Christian is all about. In their life and practice they lived the values of the Kingdom. Their spiritual disciplines and their faith with vision and their sense of mission impacted my life.
I had Murray Dempster for only one course. It was my senior year, a very important
moment in my life… It was a turning point in my life. He was just fantastic, so passionate, so animated. He was inspiring a vision, inspiring a passion.
Pentecostal educators interviewed for this
the char- acter,
the embodiment of truth in the
shaped their lives at Pentecostal IHEs. Their mentors
and led lives of
Those who mentioned other Pentecostal mentors
these same traits.
3: As a Pentecostal
expe- rience and/or
influ- ence the ideas of Pentecostal educators about
on their own
Pentecostal educators described what
they try to do in their pedagogy.
Some of the contrasts
they drew were as follows:
Transformation rather than just information
Practice rather than just cerebral
rather than just theory
rather than just information.
In describing their ideals for
words were fre-
I have sought to pattern my teaching on I Thessalonians 1:4-10. In this passage,
Paul reviews the
the Thessalonians, but also the manner in which he ministered to them. I see in this the following: ( 1 ) “with words”-he was articulate in his com- munication ; (2) “with power”-not simply with ‘words,’ but also with the empowering of the Spirit; (3) “with the Holy would under- stand this to mean
to the Spirit”-I
leading of the Spirit; (4) “with
deep conviction”-In this I see that the faculty person has an obli- share with the students
gation to [personal] convictions, although he must be careful not to insist that the students must
how we lived
agree with him; (5) “You know
see this as transparent model- ing
of a lifestyle, outside the classroom as well as inside.
The idea that when you’re equipped with God’s power, nothing is
in the classroom. I have seen so many pessimistic teachers who can make a list of everything they can’t do. I had the genuine belief, impossible
based on my Pentecostal that God could move mountains, that this vessel could be used experience, by God. Marie Brown and my mother [my mentors] also emphasized that the vessel needed to be equipped.
God will use your talents. God works in history. Wonderful
things can in that classroom. You have to hap- pen equip yourself.
I teach from my own experience. I believe that is part of integrity. One should not teach something that isn’t part of her/his experience,
in that that is
particu- larly related to spiritual principles and values.
Some of the educators I interviewed
concern that often these principles
are not in
in Pentecostal IHEs due at least in
models that are more Evangelical (or fundamentalist)
Most of my ‘Pentecostal’ education could be characterized as classical
Most of the teachers and pastors who had the influence on me were Pentecostal but had
largely embraced a philosophy
Evangelicalism than Pentecostalism.
My ministry today has
shaped more ‘Charismatic’
theology and ecclesiology. This segment of
impacted me and allowed me to re-embrace the theology and tice of
early Pentecostalism, which is fundamentally different from the suburban, Bible College Pentecostalism of the 1980s and 1990s.
Pentecostals have mostly adopted the methods and modes of the
church. And that
only concern reli- gious, biblical,
theological education. This conformity to has its
Evangelicalism strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side it has more recent Pentecostal
taught generations to think, and to think criti- It has also
cally. taught the Pentecostals some degree of humility about their own tradition
those who are unlike them). It has caused them to be less myopic about Christianity and them- selves… On the
negative side, Pentecostals have forsaken some of their own
dynamics. In their desire to appear rational, they forsook their to the
openness mystery of Christianity. In their desire to develop their minds,
they adapted an overly rational, overly linear mode of thinking
gutting them of the dynamics that birthed their movement. In their uncritical embracing of Fundamentalist American
abandoned what to me was a natural
byproduct of their ethos: an aes- thetic
awareness, appreciation, and creativity.
Four: As a Pentecostal
characterize your philosophy
of education? In what
of education be distinct or have
different from other Christian
Pentecostal educators note Pentecostal influences and distinctives at a number of
but indicate that a need exists to further explore
the Pentecostal educators I interviewed
that a Pentecostal
of education could be
at least in its emphases,
from other Christian
of education and certainly from secular
of education. What is less clear is the meaning of a phi- losophy
of education. Pentecostal educators located the distinctives of Pentecostal educational
at various levels.
Pentecostal distinctives at the
metaphysical (ultimate reality)
Pentecostals should have a worldview that informs their philosophy of education. This worldview includes an openness and embracing of the
mystery of God and life. God can and does surprise us. God is both frighteningly
transcendent and joyously immanent. We need to embrace a pre-Enlightenment scientific vista that sees God as present in the world.
Pentecostal distinctives at the axiological
The values of the Pentecostal experience are distinct and deeply rooted in our community: values of a devotion to God’s inerrant Word, to truth, to urgency, to the breadth of God’s people, to Christian
to Christian to the of
calling, to holi- ness, community, power the Holy Spirit. As we think back about these values, these ideals of Pentecostalism, we are bet- ter able to look forward.
Others see Pentecostal distinctives at the
epistemological (knowledge) level.
I take one of the hallmarks of Pentecostal theology to be its
which calls into
epistemolo- gy question any form of rationalism … think a distinct- Pentecostal
ly philosophy of education would be grounded in the non- rationalist, experiential epistemology, coupled with an emphasis on lib- erating practice.
to our view of the student.
It seems to me that Pentecostal education has to be holistic, all three of Bloom’s traditional taxonomies in the cultivation of mind and embracing spirit for the larger service of the Kingdom of God.
the difference in the role of the teacher.
A Pentecostal philosophy has to recognize the essential charismatic nature of the teaching gift, and cultivate that gift, realizing that the leads
one, and energizes one, in the communication of truth and bonds the learner into a process of common discovery.
The role of the teacher is different from the role of expert pouring knowl- edge
into the uninformed. I want to learn about learning more than about teaching.
It’s a dynamic process, not a disengaged, content-driven
There is a
phi- losophy. dynamic between the content, the learner, and the educator. That’s where the role of the
Spirit comes in.
distinctives at the level of the curriculum.
Truly Christian discipleship (training for mission) must involve the of
acquisition spiritual skills: prayer, spiritual power, radical obedience to the
Spirit, etc.-all usually regarded as ‘extra-curricular’ or assumed
for the student rather than carefully taught as the core of the curriculum. The very method of teaching in Bible colleges and seminaries reflects a detached observation of the Christian phenomena ‘out there’
(a Western/Greek way of knowing) vs. the knowing-by-experience of nor- mative, New Testament Christianity.
distinctives in pedagogy, discussed above. Others emphasized
the nature and role of the school/educational
Pentecostal education has to be holistic. It is tied to an inclusiveness that comes out of Acts. It is global and cross cultural, uniting bond and free, male and female. It has to remember the margins as well as the center. The field in a class is never level. How do I help those for whom this does not come playing
easily’? My philosophy of education focuses on stu- dent
learning for empowerment.
of the difference all this makes in practice.
My philosophy of education as a Pentecostal educator is impacted by a sense of
“present tenseness.” I am not so much wanting to characterize a
humanly devised system of to discern cognition. I am dealing with a process of learning implications of information. I am much more aware of a full orbed dimension of
education that includes both cognitive and affective and also a dimension of subsequent action.
Several mentioned the need for Pentecostals at this
history to give focused attention to the topic of educational
We have to learn from the rest of the church. They are centuries ahead
of us in terms of developing Christian character; thinking about church-
state issues; thinking about societal and ethical issues; thinking about the
human person… Too quickly, we are
approaches to these disciplines and questions and this will lead to our , demise.
Very little of the earlier approaches to Pentecostal pedagogy or
of education remains. It
philoso- phy probably is time once again (as the educational founders of our institutions had to original
do) to raise the ‘What is an
appropriate Pentecostal educational pedagogy for our insti- tutions
It is useful to review the thoughts and educational philosophies
and practices of our founding educators themselves.
Five: What resources have been
to you in
as a Pentecostal educator?
Most Pentecostal educators
that we are still in
the early stages
of the work of bringing Pentecostal
to bear on
educational issues of philoso- phy
Most of my respondents indicated that written resources on education- al
Pentecostals for Pentecostal edu- cators are lacking,
education. So what resources have been
to them in their
as Pentecostal educators?
and mentors as their
men- tioned Pentecostal
with each of the fol- lowing
named at least once:
Gordon Fee, Steven Land, Cheryl Bridges Johns, Myer Pearlman,
Ralph Riggs, Davis, Miroslav Volf, Opal Reddin, Robert Menzies, Walter Hollenweger, Roger Stronstad, Mel Robeck, Russell Spittler, Vinson Synan, Lyle Lovett, Murray Dempster, J. Robert Ashcroft, and Robert Cooley.
Seven mentioned writers and thinkers not
Watchman Nee, Brother Lawrence, Thomas a Kempis, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, C.S. Lewis, John Wesley, John Piper, Gustavo Gonzalez, Andrew Murray, Madame Guyon, Arthur Holmes, Harry Blamires, Thomas Groome, Parker Palmer, Jean Piaget, George Marsden, and James Burtchaell.
Two mentioned “Third Wave” Pentecostal/Charismatic
C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs, John Arnott, Charles Kraft, and Guy Chevreau.
Two mentioned Pentecostal
such as Enrichment. Several men- tioned the
Few of the Pentecostals mentioned have written
on educa- tion.
on one of the
by Pentecostal educators within Pentecostal IHEs, one of the respondents wrote: “We have had limit- ed opportunity to study our own
as Pentecostals because
[of what might happen]
accepted perspective (approved by the denomination).”
I conclude this section with a quote that summarizes much of the above:
The creation of Christian higher education institutions outside of min- istry training
will no doubt encourage the growth of a professional teach- Pentecostal in the new setting remains to be seen, as the
class within pentecost. Whether that teaching class can remain
roots of Augustinian
tradition (Catholic, Lutheran, and
are much more deep context of professional pentecostal educators…Beyond creating institu- powerful
widespread, providing both the training and the continuing tional space for the
teachers, there needs to develop a flourishing interdisci- plinary
concentration on the nature and function of Pentecostal
peda- gogy, fellowship between teachers and pastors, and appropriate resources such as journals, internet sites, conventions, etc. As well as an institutional approach to
pedagogy, it is essential that Pentecostal teach- ers remain
strong local congregations where their gifting is both
and relativized by its setting amongst other gifts. There is no room in Pentecostal pedagogy for elitism or showmanship…To some appreciated
we are having to invent pentecostal higher education as we go!
be said of other forms of Pentecostal education as well.
Allow Us to Formulate and
Philosophies of Education?
A Proposed Framework
describe their ideas about education in terms of classical
or contemporary educational theories. Their descriptions
of their Pentecostal
on their educational ideas and
more often refer to intuitive connec- tions than to systematically defined
While this intuitive sense is both
and consistent with Pentecostal
it translates with
into formal educational settings,
for curriculum and instruction must be formulated in a systematic
Pentecostal educators often find them- selves
a specifically Pentecostal framework for educational
with the result that Pentecostals then borrow
from other educa- tional
that do not fully capture the dynamic of the implicit edu- cational ideas
Daniels has described this dilemma within the Church of God in Christ (COGIC),
African-American Pentecostal denomination. A system
was launched within COGIC in 1972 with the pur- pose
ministers and missionaries.
while successful numerically,
in Daniels’ view,
insensitive to educational ideas and
within the COGIC Pentecostal
community. 13 3
Pentecostal educators across formal education
have been reliant
curricular materials, and instructional methods rooted in other Christian and secular
of education. 14
It would be of value, then, to have a framework within which to com- pare
which would then allow Pentecostals to
with their educational ideas and
Thus we could draw on the wealth of ideas available to us within our own
and communion, as well as on other Christian traditions and other educational and philosophical schools of thought.
I suggest that our search for such a framework
might fruitfully begin with the
that educators ask. What are some core
questions per- taining
to the educational
that the following ten questions
are universal educational concerns. While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of core questions, it does
a common framework for our discussion of educational
1. What is real?
2. What is true and how do we know?
3. What is of value?
13 David D. Daniels, Ill,
“‘Live So Can Use Me Anytime, Lord, Anywhere’: Theological Education in the Church of God in Christ, 1970 to 1997,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Theology 3:2 (July 2000), 303. Daniels writes: “The mission of the
System of Bible Colleges is admirable, although the uncritical appropriation Evangelical curriculum is problematic.. . What is the best pedagogy to transmit the COGIC message and experience? Does an implic- it COGIC pedagogy exist that could be employed? The System of Bible Colleges promoted a pedagogy
that was alien to the COGIC context. The pedagogy of the System of Bible Colleges mitigates against
COGIC’s informal education processes of Bible discussion and mentoring.”
14 See, e.g., Cheryl Bridges Johns, Pentecostal Formation: A Pedagogy Among the Oppressed (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 7. Johns writes: “The area of Christian edu- cation reflects some of the best and most sincere attempts to fit in with more established churches. For many Pentecostals, the
closely graded classes, cog- nitive and deductive approach to faith formation, four-color curriculum materials and stream- lined organization, is the wished-for ideal. We point to our untrained teachers, poor facilities and lack of good pedagogy as sure signs of our sectarian backwardness, all the while over-
which have historically been part of our discipleship.” An example of this from
my own experience concerned the core textbook in the Basic Christianity
class at Evangel University, an Assemblies of God institution in Springfield, Missouri, when I attended there in the late 1970s and early 80s. An
book on edu- cational philosophy is entitled The Idea
Arthur outstanding Holmes, a professor of philosophy
from a Reformed
provided my classmates and me with a coherent and powerful evangelical philosophy of education, but we
to relate it to our Pentecostal experience and theology, and no
comparable philosophy of education from a Pentecostal Christian perspective was available.
4. What are
as an educator?
5. How does
frame and constrain
6. What is the nature of the student?
7. What is the role of a teacher?
8. What should be learned?
9. How should it be taught?
10. How do my ideas
shape my educational practice (and
involves an educator’s
responses to, ideas about,
these ten essential and
mutually informing questions (and others).
Within each of these
“What is real?” one will find
nature of the universe, the nature of God, the nature of human
“metaphysical” questions, and,
when one asks about distinctives for
reflect on whether
Pentecostals would answer these
or with different emphases,
Insofar as one is an educator, I would
one has ideas about each of these matters. These ideas
be richly or
may be honed by consistent practice
or relatively untried.
related to a philosophical school of thought, a wisdom
or not related. One may be said to have a formal edu- cational
if these ideas are made
If these ideas remain implicit,
be said to have an informal
of education. But educational
is rooted in these
in this sense,
every educator has an educational
of formality in a statement of educational
is a function of the
of the educational
articula- tion of an educational
articulation. 15 As for institutions, an institutional
15 Though we may not be explicitly aware of the labels and terminology of educational
we are in
many ways the products of one or some combination of these educational ideas and their working out in practice. For example, few have read the writings of John losophy,
the foremost American philosopher of education and author of books like and
Education, but virtually all of us are products, at least in part, of
reforms in American schools.
Many Christian educators
Alan Bloomri The Closing
of the American Mind in the early 1980s, but just what enjoyed reading was the educational
philosophy underlying thesis, and was it an educational philosophy that Pentecostal educators
likewise be said to consist of the institution’s
to these ten
with personal pronouns modified.
Toward the end of this discussion, I will suggest a model that draws on depictions
of a philosophy of education like the one below.
Knight’s model, while
a reciprocal dynamic, does have the virtue of depicting the various
of a philosophy of education.
of a Philosophy of Education from
The first three elements of Knight’s model are the classical
questions of philosophy,
axi- ology (What
follow from our worldview, and these
shaped and reshaped
as political dynamics, social
forces, economic conditions, and the expectations of immediate
or commu- nity.
in the framework of
edu- cational issues, such as the nature of the student, the role of the teacher, appropriate
and our ideas about the social functions of educational institutions. These ideas in turn underlie and
for Christian educators below.
could fully resonate with? Likewise, Paulo Freire’s 1986 book The
of the Oppressed touched a responsive chord with many Christians in its appeal for justice, but how cognizant are Pentecostal educators of the underlying educational philosophy? Thanks to
Cheryl Bridges Johns and others, Pentecostals are beginning engage Freirian thought in just this kind of dia- logue,
but overall we are in the early stages of this kind of reflection.
16 Knight, Issues and Alternatives, 34. –
2: Influence Domains 17
on Various Educational
Do Pentecostals have
to add to Joldersma’s model? We will continue to explore this question below.
limitations of this
do not allow for a discussion of each of the historic and
contemporary philosophies, ideologies,
and educa- tional theories that have
For summaries of the
and their educational
I would recommend Knight
and Gutek.lg In the next section, I provide a brief overview of the components
and discuss ways
Pentecostal educa- tors.
How Do Pentecostal Educators
Pentecostals do not hold a
of education. Some Pentecostal educators would
with a form of Pentecostal
particular- ism. Others would tend to
17 Julia K. Stronks and Gloria Goris Stronks, Christian Teachers in Public Schools (Grand Rapids,
MI: Baker, 1999), 45.
Knight, Issues and Alternatives, and Gerald L. Gutek, Philosophical and Ideological on
Perspectives Education, 2d ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997).
inclined to speak of their educational ideas in terms that resonate with
peren- nialism. Some would consider themselves
educators. Still oth- ers are enthusiastic about educational
and practices that correspond to reconstructionism. There are also Pentecostal educators who would identi- fy
not use this
terminology, but I hope to show that the diverse ideas of Pentecostals about education res- onate with these
Drawing primarily upon
the history of Assemblies of God education in the United States, I suggest eight approaches to educational
in roughly chronological
but that now coexist
among (and within)
diverse Pentecostal educators. All
be seen as adap- tations of philosophies of education that exist in the
and we will
of education have been
and adapted by
Pentecostal educators over time. The
to edu- cational
to be explored in this section are:
The earliest educational
may be described as “particularistic.” Particularism in education
is characterized by a withdrawal
from dominant and mainstream education
often a forced withdrawal made by minority groups whose values are
accepted in the dominant culture. Pentecostal
is related to forms of fun- damentalist and
as Afrocentric) educational
and distance themselves from the educational systems of mainstream (and oppressive) society.
was also expressed in a pacifist stance toward war, which was the official
of the U.S. Assemblies of God, for
until 1967, and in a code of
that avoided involvement in many social activities of mainstream culture
involvement in party
Some of the characteristics of Pentecostal
and ministry preparation
on eschatological expectation that Jesus’ Second
occur at any time
an emphasis on short- term, intense,
a suspicion of longer-term academic
that seem the oretical and insensitive to the shortness of time
use of fundamentalist curricula and theological models, even when such models seem inconsistent with Pentecostal
and the –
ology (e.g., dispensational theology
and the Scofield Reference
Bible) pragmatic emphasis
skills for evangelistic and mission ary endeavors;
are valued insofar as they give pragmatic
assistance for Pentecostal mission
for preach –
math for financial and logistical
from academic institutions are considered
unimportant and even undesirable.
Pentecostal- education in its particularist form is often accused of being anti-intellectual,
and in some senses this is true.
Pentecostals have been
too much.” Pentecostals have some- times seen the mind as an enemy of the
as Jesse Miranda, Director of the Urban Studies and Ethnic
Center at Vanguard
stated in an interview,
reacting against pseudo-education
and the lack of balance between the rational and the rela- tional.
wanted to go beyond the rational.”
was not toward intellect or formal education
but rather toward the intellectual status
of formal education from which Pentecostals, largely
from lower social
had been excluded. Pentecostal anti-intellectualism, then, while sometimes an unbalanced
rejec- tion of the
the rationalism of the late nineteenth and
twentieth centuries that
structures of truth upon
human reason alone. In this
some of the postmodern critiques of both traditionalist and modernist education.
was the educational
most characteristic of Pentecostal education in the United States in the first few decades of the twentieth
Bible institutes and Bible schools.
in the late
with the establishment of the first Assemblies of God
four-year degree-granting institution,
Southern California Bible
and continuing into the
1940s, with the Pentecostal
in the various
related to the National Association of
Pentecostal educators began
to explore other
to formal education.
key elements of five other educational theories mentioned above. Other educational
differ- ent terminology and even different
but for the point I wish to make here about
within Pentecostalism, I draw
theory taxonomy suggested by
(See Figure 3)
While most Pentecostals would not describe their educational ideas in terms of the labels above, one often hears the elements of these various the- ories in Pentecostal
of educational ideas. The
are compilations of comments from
and pres- ent,
that seem to resonate with core elements of these five educational theo- ries.
In order to accomplish that Great
we need to be prac-
tical and we need to be skilled. To that end, we need to teach our
to read and write and to calculate, to be able to have
the academic skills
the Bible and are
to error and
math skills are essential if
we are to use modem methods of construction,
other tools that allow us to take the
to all the world. In
addition to their Bible education, our
need these basic aca-
demic tools and we must make sure that they acquire these. These
skills are also
for good citizenship.
God is the
of gifts, and God’s
are of many
kinds; super- natural
gifts, leadership gifts,
of Christ is very
diverse and so must be the
for their unique callings.
In addition to our Great
us to bring the
to all people, we have received a cul- tural mandate, which
us to bring our Christian worldview to bear on all the activities of our lives. We must
our faith with our
and with our lives. All truth is God’s truth. The Bible is wholly true, but it is not an encyclopedia of human knowl-
We must seek out and understand the truth wherever it is found. To this end, our young
need to study the great works of literature, must understand that science is not
to our faith but is compatible with it. The
of God is to lead us into all truth and so our educational endeavors are a sacred
Traditional education has been much too focused on abstract ideas of truth and too little focused on the child or the learner and her unique
needs. As Pentecostals, we prize the soul and spirit as much as the mind. The
of a person’s life. Jesus models that
concern for the whole
His teaching is not full of abstractions, but is rooted in people’s real life experiences. We need to recover his gra- cious concern for the whole
the Biblical model associates the work of the Holy
with the formation of a com- munity.
The church in the book of Acts is a community of concern and love, which values each member,
and treasures it, and seeks the full formation of each
within the context of the
of Christ. Our education should reflect this concern for
and spirit, so that we
reflect the love of Christ to the world. All our abstract ideas and
great pronounce- ments tend to alienate
from Christ rather than attract them to him.
liberating power. When
learned from the
she exclaimed that God has sided with the
down the proud oppressors.
Jesus’ life modeled this identification with the outcast and his
When the Spirit
of God came at
men and women,
notably upon those outside the structures of
social, and economic power.
up oppressed people and brought them into a community
Holy Spirit to
speak prophetically against
circumstances and for a
before God. Our education should likewise
to receive God’s
build a new
based on inclusion,
and peace- making.
We should be involved in
not just seeking spiritual experiences
for our own satisfaction.
Both traditional and modem forms of education have asserted an ability
to know and convey absolute truths about the world.
They have constructed rationalistic
theories to explain
and then have
to force these
systems of thought on generations of students. In fact, we should be suspi- cious of all these claims. The Apostle Paul said that we see through a glass,
In other words, our knowledge is very limited. We should be humble about our assertions. What concerns God more than our
and our rationalistic
metaphysical systems are our
on behalf of the voiceless and the
We need to teach our children to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk
with our God. The Holy Spirit
comes with a power not rooted in rationalistic
systems, but with authentic,
Each of these
of Pentecostal educational ideas
rooted in other intellectual traditions. That elements of these educa- tional theories should be attractive to Pentecostal educators should come as no
since all of these theories are informed
the Judeo-Christian tradition.
of these theories have been and are believers in God and in Jesus Christ, while many
propo- nents within the same
(See Fig. 3).
Two other varieties of Pentecostal
of education that merit comment here are Pentecostal
and Pentecostal eclecticism.
would assert that the nature of the education system really
is not all that
believer can function within
any of them, bearing
witness to Christ in a dynamic and suc- cessful
to the circumstances as need be,
as he or she would
and function within
is especially compelling
in cultures like the United States, in which the ultimate
justifi- cation for most actions is whether it “works.” ” In secular
the criteri- on to measure whether
works is usually whether it allows one to attain one’s desired outcome,
defined in materialistic terms. This emphasis
on ends can blur the worldview and ethical issues
3. Elements of Five
which those ends are to be
achieved, leaving people
in a frenetic competition
and personal gratification. The same
danger exists for Pentecostal
whether the desired end be a
or personal spiritual fulfillment.
may be the most common philosophy
of educa- tion
tends to pick and choose elements of educational
in an eclectic
often with little
to reflect on the
issues of worldview. “Reflective” eclecticism makes
sense in that
ideas about education and worth- while
come from a variety of sources and perspectives.
However, one must be cautious about what
are collected into a ‘bag of tricks.”‘ 19
Indeed, each of the educational
discussed above has its merits. I believe, however, that Pentecostals are still in
relatively early stages
of reaching beyond these conventional or popular educational ideas to examine the educational
inherent within Pentecostal
experi- ence and theology. The current
have often been
in a prag- matic
and need to be reexamined. Menzies’s
of the state of Assemblies of God education in 1970 continues to hold true ‘
thirty years later:
The changes seem to have been occasioned largely by economic and social pressures, not matched by an overarching philosophy of educa- tion. The result of unassimilated changes has produced a degree of uncertainty
and competition on the undergraduate level.20
A Possible Framework
Impact of Pentecostal Experience
It is a crucial time for Pentecostals to re-examine our educational philosophies
of our Pentecostal
It is conceivable,
have little that is
to contribute to the discussion of philosophies of education. Some would
argue that Pentecostalism
reasserts orthodox Christian belief with a focus on practice and experience of those truths and not mere intellectual assent to them.
The results of this survey and literature review, however, would seem to suggest
Pentecostals do have
to contribute to retlection on educational
with metaphysics, axiology,
19 George J. Posner, Analyzing the Curriculum, 2d ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995), 3.
20 Menzies, Anointed, 373.
to the nature of the
the role of the teacher,
as well as other Christian and secular writers and the biblical
I offer the following draft framework for
of education in order to suggest
areas of reflection and
for Pentecostal edu- cators in various domains of a comprehensive philosophy of education. I look forward to dialoguing with and learning from
my fellow educators
and fellow Pentecostals in this exploratory
4. Draft Framework for
becomes the framework for the entire educational
informs our reflection and
prac- tice. The
reciprocal. The Pentecostal
We are not left on our own as far as our relationship with God is con- cerned; neither are we left on our own to “slug it out in the trenches,” as it were, with regard to the Christian life. Life in the present is ered
by the God who dwells among us and in us. As the personal pres-
ence of God, the Spirit is not merely some “force” or “influence.” The living
God is a God of power; and by the Spirit the power of the
living God is present with us and for us.21
Like other Christians, Pentecostal educators draw on Scripture and the- ology
in contextualizing their educational
and activities. In doing
so, Pentecostal educators
see God through
the Holy Spirit as One whose
infuses one’s formulation of ideas, goals, strategies,
and who not only guides the process and
empowers the plan, but who might break into the process at any time to accomplish the unexpected.
The teacher and
in the presence
of God, whatever the educational context. From this vantage point, one could
in which Pentecostals
think and are thinking
about their educational
continue to engage in powerful educational
21 Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 8.