February 16, 2016 Robby Waddell

Pentecostals, Millennials, and a Forecast of Scholarship

As the Pentecostal Movement has aged, those who identify themselves as Pentecostals have begun to create robust and distinctly Pentecostal theologies, hermeneutics, ethics, and more to help the movement navigate its ways through an ever shifting cultural ethos. To intertwine this unique and growing field of Pentecostal scholarship with the spirituality of the movement’s young Pentecostals will help create a bright future for the movement as we move further into the 21st century.

Young Pentecostals—at least the ones that I have been teaching over the last decade—are interested in making the world a better place and so their academic interests are drawn toward highly practical ways of putting their faith to work. They want to open medical clinics, minister to orphans, feed the hungry, house the homeless, and educate the uneducated. The future of Pentecostal studies, in my opinion, is going to be fueled by interdisciplinary efforts that seek to leverage skills and knowledge in community development, micro-enterprises, advocacy for the poor and equal rights for all people. The work that has been done in social justice and public policy is only the beginning of what is to come. The works of theological ethicists such as Murray Dempster along with the social scientific study of Pentecostalism such as the work done by the Flame of Love Project are all going to have a very long shelf life if my understanding and prediction is accurate.[1] Another aspect of social justice that will see further development is a Pentecostal theology of disability. This otherwise neglected issue has recently received theological and practical treatment by Amos Yong and Steven Fettke.[2] This research must find its way into the curriculum of our Pentecostal colleges, universities, and seminaries and in turn inspire the next generation to be better than previous ones.

The next generation of Pentecostal scholars is already globally minded.

The movement is poised for further development in ecumenical studies and dialogue. Largely owing to global migration of people groups, the next generation of rank and file Pentecostals will be more versed in interfaith dialogue simply based on living in closer proximity to people of various faiths. Thus, the works of ecumenists such as Cecil M. Roebuck, Tony Richie, and especially the pneumatological theology of religions of Amos Yong will become foundational for future Pentecostals living in global village.

Although some initial work has been completed on a Pentecostal perspective of faith and science, this field of study remains wide open.[3] The integration of faith and science has long been the work of the John Templeton Foundation and the Biologos Foundation, but now that Pentecostals are getting involved with these funding agencies a more robust Pentecostal theology of creation is inevitable, one that does not require such an adversarial polemic against evolution.[4] A more developed theology of creation opens the door to ecological hermeneutics, an area of study that has only recently been found on the radar of Pentecostal biblical scholars.[5]

Pentecostal hermeneutics has been a topic of numerous theoretical studies; however, the practice of these proposed strategies has only been applied to a handful of texts. Future generations should be able to contribute to the further development of Pentecostal hermeneutics and offer readings of texts that reflect the theories. The monograph length studies that will be the standard for future work in this area include the work of Kenneth Archer, Amos Yong, and a new book edited by Kevin Spawn and Archie Wright.[6] Works on ethnic expressions of Pentecostalism have been the topic of research for years, for example see the early work of Villafañe or Solivan.[7] However, the area of study is still a rich feast for future scholars who have interest in the field. Recent works on Black Pentecostalism have also been very informative, though this is certainly a ripe field for additional research.[8]

It may come as a surprise that my final prediction for future development in Pentecostal studies is in the area of church history and theological distinctives. Volumes of valuable material have already been produced on these topics both by Pentecostals and by other interested scholars. Nevertheless, much history remains to be uncovered. The Azusa-centric narrative needs to be interrogated in light of stories of other independent revivals around the world. More works need to be completed on the theological roots of the Pentecostal movement, work that are geographically broader and historically earlier.[9] Dale Coulter’s work on medieval theology vis-à-vis Pentecostal theology is a prime example of what is needed in this area. In regards to other theological distinctives, future scholars have much on which to draw, for example Frank Macchia on justification and Spirit baptism, Kim Alexander and John Christopher Thomas on healing and exorcism, Steven Land on spirituality.[10] These impressive works notwithstanding the future will hopefully see even more work in these key doctrines.

The future of Pentecostal scholarship is indeed very bright. It is inspired by the wind of the Spirit to meet the needs not only of the church but of the world.


[1]Mark J. Cartledge, Practical Theology: Charismatic and Empirical Perspectives (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2003).

[2] Amos Yong, Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007) and Steven M. Fettke, God’s Empowered People: A Pentecostal Theology of the Laity (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011).

[3] See James K A. Smith, and Amos Yong (eds.) Science and the Spirit: a Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010).

[4] A substantial contribution has already been made by Amos Yong, The Spirit of Creation: Modern Science and Divine Action in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Imagination (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011).

[5] Jeffrey S. Lamp, The Greening of Hebrews? Ecological Readings in the Letter to the Hebrews (Eugene: Pickwick, 2012).

[6] Kenneth J. Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic for the Twenty-first Century: Spirit, Scripture, and Community (New York: Continuum, 2004), Amos Yong, Spirit-Word-Community: Theological Hermeneutics in Trinitarian Perspective (Eugene: Wipf & Stock 2006), and Kevin L. Spawn and Archie T. Wright (eds.), Spirit and Scripture: Exploring a Pneumatic Hermeneutic (New York: T & T Clark International 2012).

[7] Eldin Villafañe, The Liberating Spirit: Toward an Hispanic American Pentecostal Social Ethic (Lanham: University Press of America, 1992) and Samuel Soliván, The Spirit, Pathos and Liberation: Toward an Hispanic Pentecostal Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998).

[8] See Amos Yong and Estrelda Alexander (ed.), Afro-Pentecostalism: Black Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in History and Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2012).

[9]Dale M. Coulter, “Continuing the Critical Tradition of Pentecostalism,” Pneuma: The Journal of The Society for Pentecostal Studies 32, no. 2 (July 2010): 177-179.

[10] Frank D. Macchia, Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the triune God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), Kimberly Ervin Alexander, Pentecostal Healing: Models in Theology and Practice (Dorset: Deo Publishing, 2006), John Christopher Thomas, The Devil, Disease, and Deliverance: Origins of Illness in the New Testament Thought (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), and Steven J. Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: a Passion for the Kingdom (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993).

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About the Author

Robby Waddell Dr. Robby Waddell is the author and editor of multiple books and numerous academic articles on the New Testament. He is on the board of directors for PEACE (the Polk Ecumenical Action Council for Empowerment) and regularly speaks at local venues on the topic of peace and justice. He is an active member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice.
  • Jim Price

    Your article holds out hope and I hope that your observations work their way into the general membership of pentecostals.

  • Charles Page

    Gimme dat old time religion, gimme dat old time religion. It was good for our fathers it good enough for me!!