Multiverse?

Does the “many-universes theory” prove evolution? Here is a short post with my thoughts.

Could there be alternate universes? The concept of our universe being one of an infinite amount of universes caught my attention while reading Strobel’s A Case for the Creator. A multiverse has been the stuff of science fiction novels for a very long time. Growing up with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia may have been the place I first imagined what other worlds would be like. The thought of other worlds has always intrigued me. In fact, I am in the process of reading Stephen R. Lawhead’s Bright Empire Series, where he utilizes the “many-universes theory” to create a fanciful quest to locate a map of the multiverse. But that’s science fiction, right?

Increasingly, many evolutionary scientist are arguing that a multiverse would diminish the anthropic principle (or the fine-tuning of our universe for life) and solidify Darwin’s theory of evolution. Lee Strobel writes, “

The argument can be summarized this way: ‘There could have been millions and millions of different universes, each created with different dial settings of the fundamental ratios and constants, so many in fact that the right set was bound to turn up by sheer chance. We just happened to be the lucky ones.[1]

Could this theory confirm the Copernicus Principle and reveal that our existence is really not that special? Does this circumvent the God-hypothesis?

Certainly, the “many-universes theory” cannot be ruled out empirically, but it cannot be proven either. In my opinion, we have evolutionists grasping at theoretical straws trying to negate all the scientific evidences for intelligent design. The philosophy of Darwin, not the science, has fueled this concept. It is a smoke and mirrors attempt draw attention away idea of creationism.

For fun, what if this theory is correct? Does it negate the need of a creator? Absolutely, not! World renowned philosopher and physicist, Robin Collins states, “Theist have nothing to fear from the idea that there may be multiple universes. There would still need to an intelligent designer to make all the finely tuned universe-generating process work.”[2] In other words, the futile attempt of evolutionary scientists would not evade the need for God, but would make God even more awe inspiring!

In conclusion, the idea of many universes is quite the notion, but the sci-fi nerd in me hopes it true! All logic and scientific evidence points to an awesomely creative God who set the earth and the heavens in order. The precise tuning of the Cosmos screams creation. The Apostle Paul wrote, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17 NASB). Universe or multiverse HE still holds it ALL together! Now let’s see what happens next in Lawhead’s fantastical multiverse in the Bright Empire Series.

[1] Lee Strobel, The Case for the Creator (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 170.

[2] Lee Strobel, The Case for the Creator, 177.

An Old FaceBook Note

***The following post was written three years ago.

I have to go on the record! I have a spur under my saddle. It bothers me, when people get cultural issues and the obeying the gospel confused. It is common to human nature to try to make others like ourselves, but this is not the Great Commission (See Matthew 28:19,20). The church is simply to preach the gospel and make disciples of Christ; not westernize believers. If the practice in a culture is not contrary to the New Testament teaching, then we (the church) should not try to change this tradition. For example, in America it is widely accepted that ministers should wear ties. Yet, I have a Bulgarian friend, that says, at one point, in the Bulgarian culture, ties were considered worldly and shunned. (For ties pointed down to hell!)Another illustration of this blurring the lines of culture and gospel commands, I experienced first hand. I occasionally grow my facial hair out, because I like it that way. Some people call this practice sinful, which I find humorous, since the sinless Savior of the world had a beard!
How does one receive salvation? For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Eph.2:8) Further more, the evidence of salvation is the fruit of the Spirit. (22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law ~Galatians 5:22,23). When we reduce the evidence of conversion down to obeying a dress code or a set of unbiblical traditions of men, we are on the verge of being a modern day Pharisee (See Matthew 23:15).
I understand people have different personal convictions and this is fine.(I also have personal convictions, but I will not promote them from the pulpit.) The individual with these convictions must remember they are “personal” convictions. (Please see Romans 14 about “personal convictions”.)The rule and guide of a Christian’s conduct should be the New Testament. You may ask, “What about the Old Testament?” Remember Christ came to fulfill the law! We as Born again believers should only hold to those Old Testaments commands that are reiterated in the New Testament. This is due, because we are under a new and better covenant! If you say you live by the law, then maybe you should read this: 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Galatians 2:21,22). Thank you Jesus for your truly amazing grace!
In conclusion, before you teach a person that practicing an act, performing a task, or dressing a certain way; is what makes you a Christian. Ask yourselves if this is a biblical conviction or a cultural conviction? I am in NO WAY saying traditions are wrong, but we are to view traditions through the lens of Scripture. I will take the approach of Paul, who did not allow cultural difference to hinder his evangelistic work (See 1 Corinthians 9:20-22).

Kevin W. Bounds

Defending Dogma : An Apologetic Response to Karl Barth’s Doctrine of the Trinity

What is God like? Is He monadic in nature or is He triune? This has been the source of great contention for many great thinkers throughout history. Many view the concept of Trinity as a creation of heretics in the early church. They accuse Trinitarian Christians of being tri-theistic, but is this an accurate accusation? Often, opponents point out that the word “trinity” is nowhere to be found in the canon of Holy Scripture. However, Trinitarian theologian Karl Barth counters this argument by stating that the doctrine of the Trinity is “appropriate” dogma of the church universal. By examining Karl Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, we can witness that although not directly revealed in Scripture, it is a correct dogmatic understanding of the nature of God, thus refuting other monarchist views. It is the intent of this work to investigate the grounds of Barth’s reasoning by looking to the Scriptures exegetically and by surveying teachings of the Church Fathers

Who is Karl Barth?

First, Karl Barth was born May 10, 1886 in Basel, Switzerland. He was a theologian that had been schooled in the German inspired liberal theology of the Nineteenth Century, but later in his life he became critical of this branch of theology. He is accredited of launching the Neo-orthodox movement. This movement had seen the shortcomings of liberal theology in the wake of the World at War and offered another perspective. He sent shockwaves through the theological world when he published The Epistle to the Romans in 1933. In a biographical sketch it is written of Barth,

An indefatigable worker and prolific writer, Barth produced more than five hundred books, articles, sermons, and papers during the course of his long and illustrious career. His magnum opus, Die kirchliche Dogmatik (Church Dogmatics , 1936-1969, 1975), the first volume of which appeared in 1932, grew to thirteen large books totaling more than nine thousand pages in German (Bilhartz).

Karl Barth passed away in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland on December 10, 1968.

His Trinitarian Views

First, the doctrine of the Trinity, for Barth, is interwoven with the doctrine of revelation. He argued that God had revealed Himself as triune in nature within the gospel of Christ. It was in the Incarnation we received the revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity. Barth writes,

The act of revelation as such carries with it the fact that God has not withheld Himself from men as true being, but that He has given no less that Himself to men as the overcoming of their need, and light in their darkness – Himself as the Father in His Own Son by the Holy Spirit” (Barth, 38).

It is clear to see from the statement above, Barth had no qualms for attributing divinity to each member of the Godhead. Barth’s entire theology hinged on the Trinitarian view of God. He argues “that God reveals Himself as Lord” (Barth, 308).

Secondly, Barth noted that the doctrine of the Trinity is not directly revealed in Scripture, but rather is a dogmatic teaching of the church.  He writes,

The doctrine on the Trinity is an analysis of this statement [see quote above], i.e., of what it denotes. The doctrine of the Trinity is a work of the Church, a record of its understanding of the statement or of its object, a record of its knowledge of God or of its battle against error and on behalf of the objectivity of its proclamation, a record of its theology and to that degree of its faith, and only to that extent, only indirectly, a record of revelation (Barth, 308).

In a nutshell, Barth argues that the Incarnate Christ is the moment of clear revelation of triune nature of the Godhead and the Bible, produced by the church, is a record of this fact. All through Scripture, God has been hinting to His nature, but it becomes apparent in Jesus the Christ. The revelation of Christ and the revelation of Holy Scripture identify the doctrine of the Trinity.

What does Scripture Reveal?

If Barth’s placement of the doctrine of the Trinity in the arena of church dogmatics is correct, we should be able to reproduce or prove his assertions by looking to the Scriptures. Don K. McKim defines dogmatics as, “the formal study of the Christian faith which presents its beliefs and doctrines in an organized and systematic way. (McKim, 81). It is the intent to appeal dogmatically and exegetically to the Scriptures in this section to affirm the hints of the Trinity given to us by God in the Bible.

Trinity in the Old Testament

First, God attests to the validity of the doctrine of the Trinity at the very beginning of His
revelation. The Trinity is alluded to be present in the act of creation. The Bible states, “In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth” (KJV, Gen. 1:1). The word used in this passage that we translate in English as “God” is the Hebrew word Elohim. This is the plural form of the Hebrew word and it could be translated as “gods” and indeed has been elsewhere in Scripture. Yet, it should be noted the singular verb “created” (Heb. Bara) indicates plurality of a single object. Bryan Murphy states, “The normal way to tell the difference in most OT contexts is that Elohim is used in conjunction with singular verbs and predicators when it refers to the God of Israel” (Murphy, 168). On the other hand, when Elohim is used in identifying the gods of the Canaanites a plural verb is used in conjunction with it. Although, this could be seen as God revealing himself as one in essence, but with multiple distinctions, scholars on both side of the argument say this simply could be majestic speech on behalf of God. We need to look further on into the creation account to prove Barth’s assertion correct.

We encounter the use of the plural noun Elohim in Genesis 1:26. The Bible records, “And God [Elohim] said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (KJV, Gen. 1:26). Who is God speaking to? In his article about the Trinity in the creation story, Murphy writes, “In Gen. 1:26 there is a significant deviation from the syntactical pattern followed throughout the creation narrative. A statement of deliberation is made-seemingly within the Godhead itself” (Murphy, 172).  This apparent communication between the divine hypostases allude to the affirmation of Barth’s concept of the Trinity which is indirectly revealed through Scripture.

Secondly, how are we to handle the Shema found in the Book of Deuteronomy? Does it not declare the God of Israel is one? The Shema states, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one [echad]!” (NASB, Deut. 4:6). The key to viewing the shema in a Trinitarian sense is the Hebrew word echad, which is translated in English as “one”.  In his article on the Trinity, Kevin Giles writes, “The word translated into English “one” in the Shema is the Hebrew word echad. It can be used to speak of the unity of husband and wife. In the New Testament, the belief that God is one continues to be affirmed” (Giles, 14).  In other words, the term echad does denote oneness, but with the capability of have multiple distinctions within the “one”. After hearing the shema recited on face value, some would accuse Christians of being tri-theistic, but upon a closer look one can see such claims are erroneously false. Also, on a side note, it is nteresting the names attributed to God appear three times in the shema. Could this have been an indication of God’s triune nature that Barth spoke about?

Furthermore, could there have been a vision of the distinct persons within the Godhead? In fact many scholars believe this is exactly the case in the vision recorded in the Book of
Daniel. The Bible states,

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (KJV, Dan. 7:13-14).

It is clear that “one like the Son of man” approaches the “Ancient of Days”, but what could this mean? Could it be that the “Ancient of Days” is the unbegotten Father and the one approaching is God the Son? It is clear that the “one like the Son of man” is given attributes reserved for God. For instance, He is coming of the clouds of heaven. Also, He is given dominion, glory, and a kingdom! Some would argue that this, if anything, proves a bi-unity. Yet, could it be the “shy” member of the Trinity is staying away from the spotlight? Or it could be stated the Holy Spirit’s presence is affirmed in the fact a person is able to read of such inspired vision. Finally, it is easy to see from these few passages the doctrine of the Trinity is alluded to all through the Old Testament.

Trinity in the New Testament

It may seem trivial to document evidences of the Trinity in the New Testament, but this is the portion of Scripture where the triune nature of the Godhead is presented with clarity. Barth knew the New Testament surrounded around the death, burial, and resurrection of the Incarnate Christ. It is within this Incarnation the Trinity is revealed to the Church. The Church in turn, analyzed the information presented by the Incarnation and then it formulated the doctrine of the Trinity.

First, the Threeness of God is illustrated at the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. The Bible records,

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (KJV, Matt. 3:16-17).

Although, some may object to this passage being used for a defense of Trinitarian dogma on the basis that it does not affirm the divinity of Christ (I will refute the claim Monarchianism later), it is paramount to viewing the distinctions within the Trinity. God the Son is being submerged into the waters baptism, then we see the Spirit of God descending in the form of a dove, and finally God the Father speaks with affirmation of the Son.  Again, this passage may be weak apologetically, but it does define the distinctions of Father, Son, and Spirit. Also, this is the basis of the baptismal formulas found in Matthew 28.

Secondly, to support the divinity of the Son, which is needed for the doctrine to stand, we come to Jesus’ high priestly prayer. The Apostle John writes,

5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was… 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world (KJV, John 17:5, 21-24).

This passage clearly refutes the notion of Jesus of Nazareth being adopted by God at his baptism. It is also clear that, although distinct from the Father, the Son is of the same substance or homoousios with the Father. Jesus of Nazareth is the eternally begotten Son of God the unbegotten Father!

On the other hand, how do you properly handle the statement of Christ in John 14:28? The Bible states, “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come [again] unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I” (KJV, 14:28). The statement must be viewed through the kenosis of the Son according to Philippian 2. Christ divested himself to human form, but kept his divinity in order to bring salvation to mankind.

In summary, although not directly revealed in Scripture, it is quite evident that the Trinity is a proper understanding of the nature of God. Thus, Barth was correct in his assumption that the doctrine of the Trinity is a dogmatic teaching of the church. Yet, this work would not be complete without looking at the early teachings of the Church.

The Trinity and the Church’s Teachings

What did the early church teach concerning the Trinity? In fact, the era of the Apologists came about due to the Church facing outside pressures. The Roman Empire had viewed Christianity as a sect within Judaism, but the Jews accused Christians of being olytheistic.  To name a few, men like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, and Athanasius rose to the challenge of defending the orthodox view of the Christian faith. It is important to mention that the doctrine of the Trinity is solidified as heresies were put to rest. This essay will only look to a few Church Fathers to confirm Barth’s view of the doctrine of the Trinity.

First, Justin Martyr was one of the first apologists to come on the scene to defend the divinity of the Son. He argued that the Father and the Son were different in number, but the same in will.  Terry Cross in his work on the doctrine of the Trinity explains Justin’s reasoning when he writes, “… the Logos is like a fire that is set by another fire; or a torch lit by another torch. The first torch and second torch are numerically distinct, yet both are fire. The first fire is not diminished by the second one that is lighted” (Cross, 4). Logically speaking, Justin Martyr seen Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ or the Logos of God. The two were one and the same. This was laying of the foundation for Church’s the doctrine of the Trinity.

Secondly, Irenaeus of Lyons was a staunch supporter of the doctrine of the Trinity.
Irenaeus coined the expression the “two hands” of God, as he spoke of the work of the Spirit in creation and the Son in redemption. M.C. Steenberg writes,

His confession of Christ raised to the Father by the Spirit, who thus is the ‘cosmic Christ’ inasmuch as he raises with him-self the cosmos of his formation, is the bedrock of his whole theological vision, and this tri-personal reality stands as the foundation on which rest Irenaeus’ views regarding every aspect of Christian theology (Steenberg, 62).

Thus, we can see that concept of Trinity was at work in this early Church Father’s theology. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit was paramount to Irenaeus of Lyons understanding of the nature of God.

Furthermore, some would argue the church invented the term Trinity and they would be absolutely correct! Tertullian was the first to coin the phrase Trinitas or Trinity. Trinity is nowhere in the Scripture, but the concept is there. The deity was Christ was taught and believed on in the early church. Church Fathers, like Tertullian, merely acknowledged the triune nature that was revealed in Christ and the Scripture.

 Even furthermore, some would argue that the Trinity was a later addition to Christian doctrine, but that simply is not case. As mentioned above, the term Trinity was coined by Tertullian in the Third Century, but according to Athanasius’ defense against Arius the triune nature of God was the teaching of the Apostles! In his argument against the Arian heresy, he appealed to the Rule of Faith which was the doctrines handed down from the Apostles themselves. This Rule of Faith actually even predates the canonized New Testament. So, to state that the Trinity is a later invention or addition is absurd.

 The Councils of the Church and the Creeds they produced clearly teach the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine can be seen in one of the most recited and beloved creeds. The Nicene Creed declares the Trinity! It states boldly,

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.  Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.  And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the
Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and
glorified; who spoke by the prophets.  And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen (Nicene Creed).

This creedal response was forged in the furnace of fiery conflict to explain the nature of God. It answers with a resounding, Yes, God is Trinity!

In summarizing this section, the Trinity is and has always been the orthodox view of the God of the Bible. He is one in essence, but three in persons. This affirms Barth’s concept of the doctrine of the Trinity being a dogmatic teaching of the Church.

Monarchianism Rebutted 

On the other hand, there are some that may object to the Trinitarian doctrine of God as put forth in this work. They see God as a monarch or one ruling sovereign over the cosmos. According to Grenz et al, Monarchianism was “a movement in the second and third centuries that attempted to safeguard monotheism and the unity of the Godhead. By denying the personal reality of the Son and the Spirit as separate from the Father, however, this defensive attempt resulted in an anti-Trinitarian heresy” (Grenz et al, 80). Although, there is many variations of this heresy, it can easily be divided into two camp; Dynamic Monarchianism and Modalistic Monarchianism.

First, Dynamic Monarchianism views Jesus as merely a Spirit empowered prophet. Christ is a man, thus, prohibiting him from being of the same substance of the Father. This heresy is still ongoing in factions like the Jehovah’s Witness, Christadelphians, and Unitarians. This heresy was debunked by Athanasius by appealing to the soteriological work of Christ. How could a mere man reunite God and man? Could we save ourselves? The only hope mankind has in the redeeming work of the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Secondly, Modalistic Monarchianism views the Father, Son, and Spirit as modes of
appearance of the one God. In other words, there is one God without any distinctions with
Himself. He is a monad. Oneness Pentecostals are adherents to this doctrinal error. To challenge this claim, one needs to look at the baptism of Christ found in Scripture. There were three distinct personalities. Also, one could appeal to “God being love”. How can God be love if there is not an object of love? The object cannot be creation, because this would make God dependent on creation. No, God must have distinctions within the Godhead to which He can give and receive love.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, the doctrine of the Trinity is not directly spoke of in Scripture, but the concept is ever present. When one looks at the clues contain in Scripture it is easy to confirm Barth’s theology of the nature of God correct. Also, it is supported by an overwhelmingly majority of early Church Fathers as a legitimate view of God’s nature. By investigation of Scripture and history, Barth’s claim that the doctrine of Trinity is a dogmatic teaching  of the orthodox Church is affirmed.

Works Cited
Bilhartz, Terry D. “Karl Barth.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia (2014): Research
Starters. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

Barth, Karl, Geoffrey William. Bromiley, and Thomas F. Torrance. Church Dogmatics. London: T. & T. Clark International, 2004. Print.

Barth, Karl, and Helmut Gollwitzer. Church Dogmatics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John
Knox, 1994. Print.

Cross, Terry L., A History of Christian Doctrines (Chapters 1-3), PDF text. Cleveland, TN: no publisher, 2013. Print.

Giles, Kevin. “The Orthodox Doctrine Of The Trinity.” Priscilla Papers 26.3 (2012): 12-23.
Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

Grenz, Stanley J., David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee. Nordling. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999. Print.

“Historic Creeds and Confessions.” – Christian Classics Ethereal Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

King James Bible. S.l.: Thomas Nelson, 1991. Print

Murphy, Bryan. “The Trinity In Creation.” Master’s Seminary Journal 24.2 (2013): 167-177.
ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.

NASB Compact Reference Bible: New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000. Print.

6 Awesome Online Bible Study Tools

bibles
bibles (Photo credit: fancycwabs)

Are you connected? Of course you probably have every kind of social media available to man, but are you really connected? We can Skype with loved ones on the other side of the globe, have the latest news delivered directly to our mobile device, and know exactly what all of our friends had for dinner last night. Yet, I am not talking about being connected by the newest form of technology. I am talking about being connected to God through the study of His word!

Since we spend so much of our time being “connected” by the internet, I thought it would be cool to point you to “6 Awesome Online Bible Study Tools”. This list is only scratching the surface of the vast resources that can help us understand His Word. Here goes:

1. Bible Outlines

Outlines help us get the “big picture” of what is being said in the Bible. Also, it helps break this “big picture” down into manageable bits

2. Bible Study Tools

3. Bible Gateway

Sometimes reading different translations helps us comprehend the message. Also, words evolve over time and we can learn a lot by studying the original biblical languages.

4. Enduring Word Media

5. Christian Classics Ethereal Library

6.Bible Commentaries

When in doubt…see what others are saying about a subject. Commentaries are a great way to unlock hard to grasp Bible passages.

Like I said before, this is just scratching the surface of online resources. You can search the web and find more! If you know of any great sites that I didn’t mention, leave a link in the comments. Go get your Bible and get connected!

A Reflection on Clark Pinnock’s “Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit”

Holy Spirit 33
Holy Spirit 33 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Pentecostal Ecclesiology?

What is Pentecostal ecclesiology? How does the flame of the Pentecostal revival challenge our preconceived notions on the theology of the church?  More specifically, what do Pentecostals have to offer on this subject to the broader spectrum of  Christianity? In his article, Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit: The Promise of Pentecostal Ecclesiology, Clark H. Pinnock addresses various themes witnessed within the Pentecostal movement, suggesting that all of Christendom could benefit from these aspects of Pentecostal ecclesiology. The promising themes covered by Pinnock  are the anointed herald of God’s kingdom, a Trinitarian society, a church oriented to mission, a fellowship of the Spirit, a continuing charismatic structure, and an institutional dimension. Pinnock explains the promising characteristics of Pentecostal ecclesiology through biblical and theological witnesses as well as his own personal experiences.

A great starting point is to preface the following arguments with a view into Pinnock’s theological background. It should be noted that Pinnock states, “Although I have kept membership in Baptist churches…I have (nevertheless) valued the worldwide charismatic renewal” (148). This “value” can be seen throughout his article, because he looks with great hope to what the Spirit is doing within the Body of Christ through the Pentecostal movement. Although he may not be affiliated with what is seen as a traditional Pentecostal denomination, Pinnock gives insight that he is charismatic in his beliefs and practices. He writes, “In 1967, I experienced a filling of the Holy Spirit at Canal Street Presbyterian Church in New Orleans when teaching at the Southern Baptist seminary” (148). He attests to fact that he has experienced healing and has also ministered healing through prayer to others. He emphatically states, “ I am one of those among evangelicals who celebrate the good things that God is doing among Pentecostals” (147).  The fact that Pinnock enters the stream of thought on a Pentecostal theology of the church from a faith tradition that generally holds to a cessationist standing gives credit to the validity of the Pentecostal movement. Thus, in return, this strengthens his following arguments for the promise of a Pentecostal ecclesiology.

First, Pinnock makes the connection between the charismatic anointing of Jesus’ ministry with charismatic ministry of the Church. This is the foundation of all that follows in his article.  In the Pentecostal view of the church, the church is seen as a continuance as an anointed herald of God’s kingdom. “The coming near of God’s kingdom in power”(150), writes Pinnock,  is central to message Christ’s proclamation in the Gospels. Pinnock states, Jesus was, “fueled by a baptism of the Holy Spirit, he preached the word of God with power and with signs following” (150). Pinnock goes on to present a paradox among New Testament scholars, in which, they attest that Jesus was charismatic, “yet, few of them take it seriously or follow Jesus in this regard” (151). Why is this? It is due to the fact that to have a charismatic ministry goes against what is secular and scientific. Today many do not have the Pentecostal view of ecclesiology, because they do not recognize the transference of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost from Jesus to the disciples. Pinnock argues, “the Spirit was transferred from Jesus to the disciples and they became successors in the charismatic ministry of the historical Jesus on earth” (151). The church is to proclaim the coming near of God’s kingdom in the same manner Jesus did with signs and wonders!

Upon reflection on the theme of an anointed herald of God’s Kingdom, I unashamedly agree with Pinnock. I believe it is accurate to state the on the day of Pentecost a charismatic baton was passed on to the disciples to continue his ministry. I cannot find a single passage of Scripture that declares the cessation of the charismatic anointing. On the other hand, Jesus states clearly in John 14:12, “Verily,verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also” (KJV, Jn. 14:12). Also, there is no denying the historical evidence of the early church being Pentecostal in their ecclesiology. For these reasons I side with Pinnock on the issue of charismatic continuance of the ministry of Jesus with the church today. Without this foundational understanding of what happened on the day of Pentecost one will not be able to grasp the argument Pinnock makes for the promise of Pentecostal ecclessiology.

Secondly, this moves us to question, why does God desire to work charismatically within the church?  The answer lies within Pinnock’s argument on the theme of a Trinitarian society. God is a giving God. He gave us his only Son and His Son gave us the gift of the Spirit. The Perichoresis or divine dance in which the Godhead is involved is one of giving, sharing, and preferring one another. Pinnock suggests, “Not only does the doctrine present God in a beautiful manner as a loveable and relational person, but it also is suggestive of an analogy of God and Church” (154).  A trinitarian ecclesiology pictures the church mirroring the relations of the Triune God.  In this analogy of God and the church, “power is not dictatorial but interactive and shared” (154).  Pinnock summarizes this point when he writes, “The church therefore seeks to be a temporal echo of these trinitarian relations” (154). The charisms or gifts which are active in a Pentecostal ecclesiology reflect the self-giving nature of the Triune God, because they are meant to better the community as a whole and not only the individual.

Until know I have not thought much about how the Perichoresis (divine dance) of the Trinity relates to a proper Pentecostal ecclesiology. Pinnock illustrates the importance of the doctrine to the mission of the church. He states, “The mission of the church can be seen as rooted in the trinitarian missions of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. With God we reach out to the lost and broken and gather them into the everlasting community of God” (155). This resonates to the very core of the Pentecostal movement, because God invites broken creatures to join Him and participate in the ministry of reconciliation. This concept backs up Pinnock’s point on the promise of Pentecostal ecclesiology.

Thirdly, for Pinnock to be caught up in this divine dance (perichoresis) is directly related to the importance of mission in Pentacoastal ecclesiology. Pinnock writes, “ Mission is inherent in Christianity according to the New Testament. It is also at the heart of the Pentecostal movement as everyone must acknowledge” (155).  Due to the fact of experiencing God’s love and empowerment of Spirit the church is oriented to mission. The universality of the gospel compels the church to advance forward to the ends of the earth with the ministry of reconciliation.

In a Pentecostal eccesiology the church is a called out body empowered by the Spirit to declare the Good News. Jesus has given the church an apostolic calling, just as the Father gave him. Jesus empowered the church by the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Pinnock states, “Being apostolic is basic to what it means to be church” (155).

In this form of ecclesiology, “non-believers are drawn by the power of it” (156). God is not distant, but inhabits this community. Just as in Jesus’ ministry it is unmistakable that God is with them for within the community the redeeming power of God is made manifest for a broken world to see and draw near.

Pentecostals view the apostolicity of the church not in a historical or restoration of apostolic doctrine, but in an “recovery of apostolic mission with signs following” (156). We are to “be the church” and not just come to church. In order to “be the church” which was sent out by Jesus the power has to be witnessed. The signs following the church are not to point to the individuals in the church, but are to point to Christ and completion of His mission. In charismatic realms the church is not only to know about God’s power, but to reveal God’s power to a lost world. A Pentecostal ecclesiology is a missional ecclesiology. We are sent in the power of the Spirit to tell the story of Christ’s reconciliation of a broken world.

Furthermore, this “God in the midst” of the church is further enhanced as Pinnock mentions the aspect within the Pentecostal ecclesiology of the “experiential approach that emphasizes an encounter with the supernatural” (157). By this phrase,  Pinnock is saying that the church is a fellowship of the Spirit. God is not a distant God, but He is encountered supernaturally within this community. God is also encountered through the Word and the sacraments, but the format of worship is not rigid. Yet, rather it is spontaneous in nature. The entire community of faith has something to bring in assembly through the charisms given to them. People are allowed to flow with Spirit in supernatural utterances that edify the rest of the congregation.

This fluidity of the Spirit within the community of faith is paramount. The lack of the this experiential aspect of Pentecostal ecclessiology could be the direct cause of many leaving mainline denominations. People need to know that God is alive and is capable of meeting them at their point of need. God is the God of the living! There is nothing wrong with ritual and symbolism, but they must be infused with this experience of the Spirit of the living God.

Furthermore, this fluidity is not to be interpreted as chaos, because God is a God of order. There must be a continuing charismatic structure within the church. Pinnock states, “If the church is anointed herald of God’s kingdom, she will need to have a continuing charismatic structure” (159).  This continuing structure is crucial for the furtherance of the Church and its message of reconciliation to the lost. In this structure, the rightful place of the priesthood of all believers must be maintained for the Body to function and be on mission. Pinnock writes, “The New Testament does not make a distinction between charismatic and non-charismatic believers” (160). In the early church, all believers had gifts to be shared with the Body. Some of this gifts may have been charisms of office or other (seemingly) spectacular manifestations.

Although, in this community some are gifted with offices they are not to be lauded over other believers, because all members of the Body of Christ are priest and ministers.  Pinnock explains, “The fact that the church has a charismatic structure does not mean there is no place for office” (160). Leadership in the church should be inclusive and “we must resist clericalization of the church” (Pinnock,160). God does place individuals in places of authority, but they are to exercise authority for the betterment of the Body.

Finally, with the talk of the charismatic structure we come to an institutional dimension of the church. Pinnock writes, “In any social movement there is going to be an institutional dimension” (161). This is true of the church, as well. Pinnock explains this institutional dimension further by saying:

It is not so much a question of whether the church has an institutional dimension, but of what kind. There are meetings to arrange, business to be conducted, leaders requiring recognition, teaching to be provided, services to be performed, and so on. The church needs structures to continue. The main thing from a biblical point of view is that the institutional elements be functional and flexible (Pinnock, 162).

According to Pinnock, institutional aspects are necessary, but they cannot “quench the Spirit” or hamper the church from flowing with the Spirit of God. Institutional traditions should be scrutinized for missional value and abandoned when it compromises the integrity or agenda of the Spirit of God. We must remember we are God’s people called to God’s purpose. This purpose is allowing the Spirit to move in us as He sees fit.

In conclusion, Pinnock’s article, Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit: The Promise of Pentecostal Ecclessiology has ignited in me a new appreciation for practices of the Pentecostal movement. It is simply amazing that God has called us out to an anointed herald of His kingdom coming near to the world. It is a sobering sense of responsibility, when you think of Jesus transferring his anointing to us to fulfill God’s plan of redemption for mankind.  He has called us to experience the love and unity of the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity in Spirit-filled communities around the globe. Our communities beckoning the hope of restoration and reconciliation to those that are apart from Christ. How we view or “do” church greatly effects the way we see mission. Let us always flow with the stream of the Spirit and remain fluid to better reach mankind. All of these themes have definitely changed the way I view Pentecostal ecclessiology! I am in total agreement with Clark Pinnock. All of Christendom needs to heed the Spirit’s stirring among the Body of Christ in Pentecostal circles. The church can fulfill the Great Commission more effectively if we take in the consideration of a Pentecostal ecclessiology.

Works Cited

Pinnock, Clark H. “Church In The Power Of The Holy Spirit: The Promise Of Pentecostal Ecclesiology.” Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 14.2 (2006): 147-165. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.

The Holy Bible. King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson: 1976.