Search:


Are Charismatic-Inclined Pietists the True Evangelicals? And Have the Reformed Tried to Highjack Their Movement?

Interview with Donald Dayton

Printer Friendly Version Email Link to a Friend
Image for Article

Our "Free Space" column, unlike the feature articles, is the opportunity for those outside of our circles to respond. It doesn't imply editorial endorsement, but encourages the open exchange of ideas. -eds.

MR: Before getting to your reading of charismatic and evangelical history, tell us a bit about your theological background and your relation to the charismatic movement. DD: Though sympathetic enough to be elected the only non-pentecostal/charismatic president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (the theological society of the pentecostal tradition), I am not pentecostal in theology or experience. I was reared in-and now identify with-the Wesleyan church, formed when my abolitionist forebears were pushed out of the Methodist Episcopal church for agitating the slavery question. This church hosted the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention of 1848 (which first called for women's suffrage), participated in the ordination of Congregationalist Antoinette Brown, the first woman to be ordained (founder Luther Lee preached the ordination sermon) and originally founded Wheaton College-though in recent years the church has been identified as a "holiness church" and since then has been incorporated into the fundamentalist/evangelical tradition. This church has been very anti-pentecostal, and I prefer the Wesleyan emphasis on the centrality of love (following the Pauline text in Corinthians) and the fruits and graces of the Spirit over the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. I identify in many ways with the Wesleyan theological tradition and have been president of the Wesleyan Theological Society, but this is a late, post-college, and perhaps "second naiveté" identification that followed a period of rejection of Christianity, a reconversion in graduate school through the reading of Barth and Kierkegaard (in the age of Francis Schaeffer, a fact which kept me from identifying with the neo-Evangelicalism of the era-though I have served several years as the chair or co-chair of the "evangelical theology section" of the American Academy of Religion). My own theological formation was in the first place in seminary (Yale) through Calvin (I teach Calvin rather than Wesley at Drew) and especially through Barth (I teach Barth at Drew and have served for nearly three decades on the executive committee of the Karl Barth Society of North America). I say this to indicate that my own theological pilgrimage is more complex than is often assumed, and my historiographical and theological positions are relatively independent of both my rearing in-and present identification with-the Wesleyan tradition.

MR: You see Evangelicalism as basically Wesleyan, and Charles Finney as the movement's fountainhead. Since arguably the theology of Finney is further from the theology of the Reformation than is Rome, what do you see as the relationship between self-consciously Reformational churches and the evangelical movement? DD: Let me clarify my own position. I try to avoid the use of the word "evangelical" as much as possible. It is, in the words of British analytic philosophy, an "essentially contested concept" in which the basic meaning of the word is so at dispute that it is impossible to use it with precision or without participating in an ideological warfare that empowers one group over another. I have expressed my own doubts about the usefulness of the word "evangelical" in The Varieties of American Evangelicalism. I would prefer a moratorium on the word so that we would learn to speak more coherently and precisely. My own efforts to achieve precision emphasize three quite different and irreducible ways of using "evangelical" that are in fundamental conflict and represent three different periods of theological struggle: 1. There is the Lutheran use in the sixteenth century over against Catholicism to express an understanding of the Gospel rooted in the doctrine of justification and the disjunctive solas of the Reformation (by Christ alone, by grace alone, by faith alone, etc.). Alistair McGrath (and perhaps MR?), for example, seems to be working with this understanding. 2. There is the pre-fundamentalist Wesleyan use rooted in the "evangelical revival" of eighteenth century England with a polemic against "nominal Christianity" (mere orthodoxy) for a conversionist "religion of the heart" grounded in a strong doctrine of sanctification and the conjunctive unity of faith and works. 3. There is the twentieth century post-fundamentalist use in the "neo-evangelical movement" that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s ("fundamentalists with manners") and found its theological agenda in the supposed defense of "orthodoxy" against the "acids of modernity" and the fight against "liberalism." When the "neo" is dropped, this becomes what I call "generic evangelicalism," understood in a paradigm which makes fundamental a "conservative-liberal" divide-the paradigm that seems to dominate our own use of the term. In English we have little means of distinguishing these variations. German, however, distinguishes these usages clearly. People: (1) describe Lutheranism as evangelisch; (2) speak of Pietismus or theologie der Erweckungsbewegung (the awakening movement); and (3) borrow from English to describe those who go to Billy Graham's evangelism conferences as Evangelikale. Perhaps we should appropriate a convention from the church growth school to speak in English of E1, E2, and E3 to make ourselves clear! In the Anglo-Saxon world, the most useful and historically appropriate way of using the word "evangelical" is, I believe, according to the second or Wesleyan paradigm-what I would call classical Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism in this sense (as conversionism) did not exist before the eighteenth century. (1) Similarly, the mission movement was a product of Anabaptism and Pietism and carried by the revival and awakening movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries rather than the magisterial Reformation of orthodox Calvinism and Lutheranism. Nor is Wesleyanism easily assimmilatable into Lutheranism-despite the fact that Wesley had his Aldersgate "heartwarming" experience during a reading of Luther's preface to the book of Romans in a Moravian meeting. When he actually read Luther (the commentary on Galatians), Wesley was horrified and regretted that he had recommended him. In his diary Wesley found Luther blasphemous in associating "the holy law of God" with the devil, hell, and sin (for Wesley the law is "established by faith"), unreasonable in his rejection of reason, and "tinged with mysticism" throughout this commentary. A similar analysis could be made of the differences between classical (or pre-fundamentalist Evangelicalism) and post-fundamentalist Evangelicalism; they are two different movements theologically. Fundamentalism marks the decline of classical Evangelicalism in its fixation on eschatology, especially dispensational Premillennialism, and the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture (largely not a part of classical Evangelicalism and even polemicized against in Pietism). (2) Yes, I see Evangelicalism as basically Wesleyan even beyond the boundaries of Methodism as such. Thus the Anglican evangelicals were dismissed by their critics as "methodists." (3) Or in America the beginning of "modern revivalism"-the tradition that goes through D. L. Moody to Billy Sunday and ends in Billy Graham in our time-is often identified with Presbyterian/Congregationalist evangelist Charles G. Finney. (4) Finney and the larger "new school" Presbyterian movement may be interpreted, at least in part, as a sort of "methodistized" Presbyterianism. The new measures of Finney were largely anticipated in Methodism, and the theological tradition of "Oberlin Perfectionism" (Finney, Asa Mahan, etc.) was precipitated by the reading of Wesley and his close friend John Fletcher, Methodism's first theologian. But the real point of your question is the relationship to Rome and how to understand the relation of "classical Evangelicalism" to Reformation churches. I think I detect a caricature of Finney in your question, but I assume you refer to his tendency (later repudiated as understating the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in enabling response to the wooing of God) to speak of "sinners bound to change their own hearts." It is also true that Finney was more radical than Wesley in this direction, but I see both as efforts to offer an important corrective to the overstatement of the magisterial Reformation in its struggle with the Roman Catholicism of the day. It is difficult to understand Wesley on these questions. In his soteriology everything is often subsumed under the doctrine of sanctification (conversion is not justification in the Lutheran sense, but regeneration-conversion understood as the beginning of sanctification), and often Wesley sounds closer to the Council of Trent than to Luther. (5) Maxim Piette thus argues Wesley is a reversion to Catholicism in the life of Protestantism, and I have often suggested that his soteriology is more Catholic than Protestant. (6) Perhaps a more balanced judgment would be Albert Outler's that Wesley erected a Catholic view of sainthood on a Protestant foundation of justification. Both Luther and Wesley get what they get by faith and grace but what they get is not the same. For Wesley sanctification (transformation and impartation) is what you get rather than justification (forensic imputation). One might speak of Finney in similar ways. If these two positions cannot be reconciled, then what is their relationship? On my more generous and ecumenical days I am inclined to think of them as mutually corrective and argue they need to be kept in tension. Kierkegaard (whose reaction to the Lutheran Danish state church led him in a Wesleyan direction) once said that if the corrective becomes the norm it has a tendency to become demonic. I have often thought Lutheranism in its overstated critique of Catholicism has often become socially and ethically passive. But the Wesleyan tradition also becomes demonically legalistic when it falls into its own decadence and is detached from the Reformation overstatement that it is trying to correct.

MR: But if the theological leadership of the post-1950 neo-evangelical movement saw themselves as heirs of the Reformation heritage, is it accurate to define neo-Evangelicalism as primarily heir to Finney and revivalism? DD: Yes, I believe it is accurate, and your question goes to the heart of the strange schizophrenia in contemporary neo-Evangelicalism. Bernard Ramm's book The Evangelical Heritage is perhaps the best illustration of what you mean-that neo-evangelicals saw themselves as heirs of the Reformation. (7) This book is a sort of theological and historical geography that places Evangelicalism in the Christian West (especially Augustine) rather than in the East, explicitly traces it through the Reformation in general but implicitly through Geneva and the Reformed wing, celebrates the line of Reformed Protestant Orthodoxy (Turretin in Geneva) and sees Evangelicalism as the effort to preserve this line intact against the acids of modernity and the rise of liberalism in a line of Reformed theologians maximally represented in the line of the Old Princeton theology (chiefly Hodge and Warfield) to Westminster Seminary and J. Gresham Machen. I begin courses on the historiography of American Evangelicalism with Ramm's book because it is an impossible construction-at least for most forms of the Evangelicalism I know. The Wesleyan tradition makes the opposite move at almost every point. Wesley drew as much or more from the East as the West and should not be seen in Augustinian terms (he saw Pelagius as a wise and holy man). As discussed above, his sources and theology are as Catholic as they are Protestant-perhaps because of the via media of the Anglican Reformation, though there is a school of thought that would put him, because of the radically disciplined character of his church life and his view of a Constantinian Fall of the Church, in with the Anabaptists so cavalierly and condescendingly dismissed by Ramm in a single footnote. (8) Wesley is not a product of Protestant Scholastics but rather of their enemy the Pietists (totally ignored by Ramm, though they are arguably the real "heritage" of the Evangelicals). Wesley was in many ways a man of the Enlightenment (in his views of reason, experience, etc.)-and Pietism and the Enlightenment shared many critiques of Protestant Orthodoxy (its ahistorical tendency to read the Bible through the Protestant confessions, etc.). This heritage is continued in modern forms of Pietism, revivalism, Pentecostalism, etc.-in my view the real carriers of the evangelical impulse over against the figures mentioned by Ramm who have been consistent critics of this line. After I had written my Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, I realized that I had in effect an alternative historiography of Evangelicalism in which there is hardly a common figure with The Evangelical Heritage of Ramm. (9) But I am not the only one who has found the Ramm reconstruction impossible. E. Glenn Hinson argues that if Ramm is right, then Southern Baptists are not evangelicals. (10) Ramm's book does not even work for Ramm, who was an evangelical Baptist who taught for a while at (holiness) Christian and Missionary Alliance Simpson College, named for holiness/Presbyterian (and Finneyite) founder A. B. Simpson. If I am right about the Wesleyan and Pentecostal traditions (which constitute some seventy-five to eighty percent of the membership of the National Association of Evangelicals) and Hinson is right about Baptists, for whom does this reconstruction work? Perhaps for a very small constituency of conservative Reformed traditions better described as Reformed Orthodoxy than evangelical. How then did this reconstruction become the official line of the neo-evangelicals? I was greatly helped by a student who once commented that Ramm is a prescription for the ills of Fundamentalism rather than a description of the historical and theological lineage of Evangelicalism. It is what evangelicals want to become rather than where they came from. Following this insight, I accuse George Marsden of having confused the genealogy and teleology of neo-Evangelicalism in his history of Fuller Seminary. (11) Charles Fuller had a variety of Christian experiences (including Methodist) before he took his Bible class out of the Placentia Presbyterian Church to found an independent church that joined a fundamentalist, dispensationalist wing of the Baptists and began to invite pentecostal evangelists to speak! I sometimes suggest that if Marsden had been asked to write the history of Oral Roberts University, he would have seen that the basic narrative line is of a pentecostal holiness tent preacher who made it big with a television ministry that enabled him to found a university and move on a trajectory that drew him into a middle-class church-Methodism. When I look at Fuller I see the same narrative, only this time a Presbyterian trajectory from "baptistic" fundamentalist dispensationalism through a radio ministry (significantly the "Old Fashioned Revival Hour") to the founding of a seminary that aspires to be the Princeton of the West. Fuller wants to become Princeton; it did not come from Princeton (in the construction of Ramm-or more nuanced in Marsden). I find this analysis confirmed in the struggles of Fuller with the Los Angeles Presbytery. Marsden portrays it as so under the thumb of "liberals" (James Pike, etc.) that it would not admit the "orthodox" Presbyterians of Fuller. Yet he quotes documents of the study commission sent to Fuller that they were looking for signs of dispensationalism and Arminianism-as well as divisiveness. That is, they feared that Fuller was too evangelical and insufficiently Presbyterian! Will the real orthodox Presbyterians please stand up?! I would argue that what is true of Fuller is true of most neo-evangelical leaders and institutions. Wheaton College, for example, was founded by the abolitionist Wesleyan Methodists who then formed an alliance with Oberlin Perfectionists to bring in Jonathan Blanchard (a Finneyite leader deeply immersed in the culture of the holiness movement) as the president of a dually aligned institution. The Wesleyans defaulted after the Emancipation Proclamation allowed many to return to the Methodist church, and Wheaton drifted into Fundamentalism under Charles Blanchard's conversion to dispensationalism before emerging as the premier neo-evangelical institution after World War II. Similar trajectories are found at Taylor University (named for maverick holiness Methodist missionary bishop William Taylor) and many other Christian colleges. I recently learned that many at Lee University, of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)-in the southern holiness/pentecostal tradition-now want the school to identify itself as evangelical rather than pentecostal. Even more interesting is the pilgrimage of the institutions founded by A. J. Gordon in New England. Gordon College has absorbed Barrington College with its roots in Providence Bible College and the work of E. W. Kenyon. (12) Further roots of this institution are found in Faith College and the holiness/healing ministry of Episcopalian homeopathic physician Charles Cullis in Boston, the mentor of both Baptist A. J. Gordon and A. B. Simpson of the C&MA in their theology of divine healing that shaped the holiness and pentecostal movements. A. J. Gordon was a revivalist, abolitionist, feminist (he at least defended the ministry of women in times of "spiritual refreshing") Baptist teacher of the Higher Christian Life tradition that so troubled B. B. Warfield at Princeton. Much of Warfield's polemic is directed against A. J. Gordon. (13) The irony is that today one cannot teach theology at Gordon-Conwell without standing in the neighborhood of the Old Princeton tradition of Hodge and Warfield. If this analysis is true, then your question becomes focused in these institutional histories, and in the personal pilgrimages of many current evangelical leaders: How did the current (thin?) veneer of Reformed theology get erected on this revivalist foundation? I'm sure MR would see this movement as one of maturity or of "seeing the light," but it looks quite different from the other side of the fence. Many of my theological and ecclesiastical compatriots would say something like, they (the neo-evangelicals) hijacked our institutions and bent them to a theological expression that we and the founders would find foreign and pernicious. And then they have the chutzpah to stand on these very platforms to advocate the Old Princeton theology and complain that we are to blame for the intellectual impoverishment of Evangelicalism or whine about declensions in Evangelicalism from proper Reformed theology. (14) I think the situation is much more complicated, but I have enough sympathy with this position to wonder if Mark Noll ever feels compelled to expound and defend in his classes Wesleyan theology or Oberlin Perfectionism and sympathetically explain why they found the Princeton theology of Hodge and Warfield pernicious in its failure to support the antislavery cause or the suffrage and ordination of women? Or does David Wells ever feel that he owes it to A. J. Gordon to expound the teachings of The Ministry of Healing or The Two-Fold Life in such a way that they live as vital options in the face of the criticisms of Warfield? (15) But I think the revivalist tradition is complicitous in this development as well. The present situation reflects a failure of nerve on the part of Wesleyans and Finneyites in the values of their own theology. Or in the light of the "Stockholm Syndrome" (Patty Hearst adopting, for example, the position of the Simbionese Liberation Army) or the insights of liberation theology that the oppressed tend to adopt the values of their oppressors as a way of gaining credibility in their eyes, we might find a variation of this explanation-one I think I detected in my father. He studied with Carl F. H. Henry and others at Northern Baptist Seminary and then supported a campaign for "inerrancy" in the Wesleyan church which he had learned was not up to "snuff" (that is, the Reformed Scholasticism of neo-Evangelicalism). Claude Welch hints at another, more theological, explanation, which I would expand as saying that in the late-nineteenth-century storms over biblical criticism many revivalist traditions climbed onboard the good ship Princeton to ride out the waves, became accustomed to its luxurious intellectual staterooms, and soon forgot that they didn't really belong there. (16) But in the final analysis I think the best explanation is just the plain old sociological forces that so profoundly shape American Christianity. I could take more seriously a theological explanation if these trajectories were not so predictable and in accord with certain sociological insights. Observers of American Christianity often notice how profoundly class-based our church membership is. The Episcopalians are on top and disproportionately represented in government, etc. The Presbyterians dominate the middle and upper middle classes; the Methodists and Baptists are a step down. Holiness and pentecostal churches prosper in the lower classes and in the ghettos (or at least it used to be that way!). As revivalist churches and institutions, which following Wesley tend to have their start in a "preferential option for the poor," rise in social class and tastes, they tend to adopt corresponding theological and liturgical styles. Thus the Presbyterian style of newly middle-class churches and the emerging Anglican culture at Wheaton and elsewhere. Much of this became clear to me in reading an editorial in Eternity magazine (with the same postal address as MR?) in the 1970s: "Evangelicals are about to capitulate on the ordination of women." After noticing the debates in the Presbyterian church and the Christian Reformed church, the editorial commented that "of course, there have always been those lower class churches in our midst that ordain women." In reading this editorial, the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw much more clearly the social class structure of neo-Evangelicalism, who is calling the shots and has the power, and so forth. Without some such sociological analysis how can one explain the strange schizophrenia (between history and projected theology) of evangelical educational institutions-or parallel facts like the Evangelical Free church, which guaranteed the ordination of women in its founding constitution but now forbids it (perhaps through a combination of sociological development and the influence of the Princeton theology in the faculty of Trinity-like John Gerstner who remained an adjunct because he couldn't join the faculty because he was not a dispensationalist!)? Or how does one explain the evolution of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles into Biola College and now Biola University, from the curriculum of a Bible college (usually dispensationalist) to the curriculum of a university (usually post-millennialist)? One final illustration. I once visited Youth with a Mission headquarters in Amsterdam to study the social action of pentecostal/charismatic mission. I was assured by the PR officer, a newly minted D.Miss. from Fuller that I misunderstood YWAM-that it was not pentecostal; it was evangelical. I protested to no avail that I had been in its meetings and I knew it as the merger of two streams, one from Loren Cunningham of the Assemblies of God and another from Floyd McClung of the Church of God (Cleveland), who had appealed to the social radicalism of the Finneyite tradition (and had reprinted some of my articles that became Discovering an Evangelical Heritage in Incite) as a precedent for his own move into the red-light district of Amsterdam to found a church among the prostitutes. I finally found a way around these defenses by asking about early theological influences and was rewarded by a description of the early Bible teacher Gordon Olson-a Finneyite who had taught early YWAMers certain controversial themes of Oberlin theology: that human beings have free will; that they are not condemned for Adam's sin, but for their own inevitable sins (contra MR in its recent discussion of federal theology); a rejection of what he called credit-card theology (that is, forensic justification) that was seen as a "fictional transaction" in favor of a real impartation of righteousness in the Wesleyan sense. I then asked about recent developments and was told of two important resolutions in the same international assembly. One granted the right to develop pension funds. (Apparently "youth with a mission" had now become "middle-aged folk with a mission" who were now worried, since the world had not been converted and Jesus had not returned, about retirement and how to fund their children's college education.) The other was an apology to their Calvinist brethren for the nasty things YWAM had said about them in its brash "youthfulness." There is the movement in a single generation to the Reformed veneer on a revivalist base that is so characteristic of neo-Evangelicalism!

MR: It seems that all churches now are somewhat charismatic/pentecostal-at least in terms of worship. Why (and how) do you think these worship styles have so infiltrated other churches? DD: I have little to say to this question, but I am fascinated by the negative language ("infiltrated"). I'm much less inclined to see anything so nefarious. In the nineteenth century Methodism grew by the time of the Civil War to be the largest Protestant denomination in the country and the trendsetter. It was the "age of Methodism" (a lá Reformed theologian Philip Schaff, Baptist historian Winthrop Hudson, etc.) not only in that it was numerically dominant but because it set the tone and convinced half the other Protestants to act like Methodists. Similarly, in Latin America all Protestants have to act like pentecostals (sing popular music with guitars and tambourines) or risk losing their congregations who will go where they think the action is. But, more profoundly, the newer movements may be more in touch with the cultural tastes of our time and of the "common person" than those churches formed in an earlier era. Both would reveal similar syncretistic cultural influences in their emergence, but the newer churches may be more in touch with the current generation than those formed in an earlier age or context (Europe?). I admit that I prefer a more classical worship style and find much contemporary worship trivial and vacuous, but I am reluctant to impose my own cultural (and class?) tastes on everyone. I keep in mind the Wesleyan experience, where perhaps the greatest hymn writer in English (Charles Wesley) was a part of a movement that reached down the social ladder and appropriated popular tunes of the time for Christian worship. And I have noticed the experience of some friends (e.g., Howard Snyder) who in efforts to found inner-city churches have found themselves moving to such worship styles because of the tastes of the members in such social locations-sometimes against their own tastes but in incarnational ministry to others.

MR: You've made a very interesting point that-given evangelicals' view of the church, sacraments, worship, and theological distinctives-"conservative" is hardly the appropriate term for them. Instead, evangelicals have historically been the radicals on these and related issues. Can you elaborate? DD: I first became aware of this and the poverty of the conservative-liberal paradigm in which evangelicals are contrasted with liberals, in dialogue with my father (later president of Houghton College) about the editor of the campus newspaper at Houghton, who had begun a trajectory that would take him into the Episcopal priesthood. My father lamented that he had "gone liberal" in spite of his evangelical education. I, a close friend and colleague of the editor, protested that he would not see it that way-that he had actually "gone conservative." His pilgrimage was a result of a growing commitment to traditional forms of church life, to the liturgical expressions of The Book of Common Prayer, to the classical confessions of the Christian tradition, and so on. I also struggle with this in efforts to interpret my own church. Is the Wesleyan church a conservative form of Methodism left holding to the classical tradition when Methodist "liberals" left the field-or is it as much a more radical form of Methodism? In many ways it is the latter: Wesley opposed slavery, the Wesleyans made opposition to slavery a matter of church discipline; Wesley dabbled with the informal ministry of women, the Wesleyans moved to ordination; Wesley believed in baptismal regeneration but stressed conversion, the Wesleyans so majored in conversion that Baptism became vestigial with the mode and age entirely optional and apparently unimportant; Wesley advocated regular celebration of holy Communion, the Wesleyans relegated it to a quarterly occurrence. In each of these, the Wesleyans moved further away from the classical tradition than the Methodists. Lurking behind this question is the issue of whether Evangelicalism is inherently "low church." Certainly this was the way Anglican Evangelicalism was originally understood. It was low church in contrast to broad church liberalism and the priestcraft and sacramentalism of the Anglo-Catholics. Once this was a clear distinction, and people moved from Evangelicalism to the Anglo-Catholicism only with great soul-searching (John Henry Newman and others). Now it seems this pilgrimage is almost normative-and under the influence of neo-Evangelicalism (which wants to see evangelical as equivalent to orthodox) permissible with the rediscovery of classical traditions under prompting from Bob Webber, Tom Oden, and MR (?). I am not able to follow this path (being taken now by so many of my Drew students from [neo-] evangelical backgrounds), though I once almost became Anglican. My study of the social engagement of nineteenth-century revivalists convinced me that in many ways this phenomenon was rooted precisely in a distancing from centrist (and therefore socially conservative) traditions-and so I am inclined to see such trajectories as a betrayal of the "evangelical impulse." (17) The issues here are closely related to those in the third question above. The Ramm paradigm prevents us from seeing what is actually going on in Evangelicalism when it is uncritically made the basis of analysis. This is most egregiously illustrated by James Davison Hunter in Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation. (18) Hunter seems to assume (but never argues for) the neo-evangelical construction of Ramm. That is, he assumes Evangelicalism is essentially a form of "Reformation Christianity" attempting to maintain "orthodoxy" against the inroads of modernity. He then analyzes data from Christian colleges and seminaries to show development (i.e., decline) on each of his themes of Reformation theology and practice. But it is worth noticing the colleges he studies: George Fox (Holiness/Quaker), Messiah (Holiness/ Anabaptist), Houghton (Wesleyan); Wheaton (however we should interpret that in the light of the above analysis); Seattle Pacific (Free Methodist); Gordon College (Holiness Baptist), and so on. These schools were never intended to be understood in the line of magisterial Reformed orthodoxy; they are at their core protests against that tradition. As Hunter analyzes his themes he sees a loosening of behavioral standards and other trends he characterizes as "liberal" tendencies. But if these schools are radical movements spinning out and away from the classical and centrist traditions, many of these phenomena might better be interpreted as a conservative movement back toward the center. That is, the same phenomena may be given quite different meaning depending on the paradigm assumed. So much for the possibility of value-free social scientific analysis leading us into a real understanding of Evangelicalism!

MR: Open theism, which enjoys increasing popularity in evangelical circles, maintains that Evangelicalism hasn't gone far enough in rejecting classical Christian views such as the divine foreknowledge of everything, God's unchangeability, and related attributes. Why do you think Wesleyans are particularly sympathetic to open theism and process theology? DD: Again, I'm suspicious of the underlying tone of this question. Am I expected to offer some sociological analysis of the defects of the Wesleyan tradition that cause it to fall into this heresy (a lá the articles in MR)? Eric Ohlmann, now Dean of Eastern Baptist Seminary, once said to me in the context of team teaching a course in Evangelicalism that he had discovered about himself that movements he liked and of which he approved he was inclined to interpret positively in theological terms while those that he found uncongenial he was likely to "explain away" sociologically. Is it really too much to believe that people turn to open theism because it is seen as a better reading of the Scriptures, a more coherent philosophical understanding, and more morally satisfying? I do think that there is truth, however, in your observation that the Methodist and Wesleyan traditions are more receptive to process theology (major centers of process theology in the United States-Claremont, Drew, Iliff in Denver, Boston, SMU-are Methodist) and open theism (Wesleyans are inclined to interpret the movement of Clark Pinnock to be in a Wesleyan direction). (19) The Wesleyan Theological Society recently invited Pinnock to speak. At first Clark misjudged his audience, but once he quit talking about Carl Henry and the neo-evangelicals, he found himself in many ways at home theologically and was received as a theological brother, though not by all. I suppose that the basic theological issue is that Wesleyan Arminians have already rejected the Calvinist model of the nature of divine/human interaction and irresistible grace-and the various doctrines that flow out of this model: perseverance, predestination, limited atonement, and even the doctrine of inerrancy (in that it would appear that the "dictation view of inspiration" and "irresistible grace" belong coherently to one model and that the possibility of "backsliding" and "errancy" belong coherently to another-a point that has been made for centuries: that the natural location of the doctrine of inerrrancy is in high Calvinism). The Arminian tradition has been defended, as by my father in certain gatherings of the Evangelical Theological Society, by an appeal to a divine omniscience that knows the future without determining it. My own sense is that this has begun to break down and that one possible response is to push further toward open theism. It has been interesting to me to note that Pinnock's collaborators are often Wesleyan or at least Arminian (the Basingers are Free Methodist, I believe; William Hasker is from Huntington College of the Wesleyan-inclined United Brethren; Rick Rice, one of my University of Chicago Ph.D. classmates, is Adventist-a fact that is, I find it hard to believe, often used against the position in ad hominem attacks). I cannot speak for all Wesleyans; I can only testify to my own pilgrimage that produced an openness to open theism; but the sources for me are not all or even primarily Wesleyan. I think I first moved in this direction in my first year of seminary at Yale in a course that consisted of a close reading of Calvin's Institutes. My paper for that course argued against the model of divine sovereignty in Calvin and advocated the image of a child playing chess with a computer. The child is genuinely free in making moves, even stupid and irrational and therefore unpredictable ones, but the sovereignty of God (omniscience and omnipotence) is manifested in the ability of God to achieve the divine will in spite of the idiotic moves of the child. I still think this is a more exalted view of divine sovereignty than more mechanical views that are a bit too much like puppetry to me. By this time I was already under the influence of Barth and his argument that the God of the Bible (of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is not the God of the philosophers-particularly the God of Greek philosophy-and that we create problems for ourselves by accepting a pagan idea of God and then have difficulty figuring out how such a God can be incarnate rather than reasoning a posteriori from the fact that God has become incarnate to an understanding of the divine nature. I am inclined to think, following Barth, that it is of the essence of the Christian God to become incarnate and the glory of God is not in transcendence but precisely in the ability to be vulnerable in incarnation. Some have even argued that Barth in his actualism (that fundamental reality is "act" and "event" not being) rejects classical metaphysics and in so doing does a better job than Process theology of answering Process theology's own questions. I am also a (personal, in Tubingen) student of Jurgen Moltmann and troubled by the classical attacks on "patripassionism" that preclude an understanding of The Crucified God. I have also been influenced in my dialogue with the Seventh Day Adventists to entertain the idea that another pernicious influence of Greek philosophy is its (arguably) unbiblical idea of the immortal soul. I am thus open to the suggestion of Walter J. Hollenweger that some of fourth-century classical orthodoxy is a form of Christian syncretism (i.e., with Greek metaphysics) that may need to be rethought. (20) I was also at Yale when my adviser Paul Holmer and his student Don Saliers (now at Emory) used to make comments, based in anti-metaphysical Kierkegaardian/ Wittgensteinian fideism, that the greatest barrier to Christian faith in the twentieth century is the philosophical tradition of Christian theism. It was only at the end of my theological studies that I first read Wesley in a course with Paul Holmer, reared in the Swedish Pietism of the Evangelical Covenant church.

MR: Pentecostalism is often regarded-at least by its friends-as a uniting force. Is that justified given the history of the movement? DD: Yes, I think it is justified. All renewal/reform movements are ambiguous in having both unitive and divisive impulses (Reformation, Pietism, Puritanism, Methodism, Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, or whatever). Any push for change has an oppositive element (to use the word of Ernest Stoeffler in describing Pietism). One side or another of this dialectic comes to the fore depending on leadership, historical circumstances, the response the movement receives, etc. There is no denying that Pentecostalism has at times shown a sectarian and divisive side-so much so that both adherents and opponents have often forgotten that the last phrase in the first clause of the confession of faith in early issues of The Apostolic Faith from the Azusa Street Revival commits the movement to "Christian unity everywhere." Much depends, of course, on response to a movement. When Catholics, Reformed, and Lutherans persecuted the Anabaptists, burnt them at stakes and drowned them in rivers, do we blame the victims for withdrawing into sectarian communities? Who was being divisive in this case? When fundamentalist and mainline alike denounced the early pentecostals by the hurling of such epithets as "the last vomit of hell" and the "religion of a sodomite," who is breaking Christian fellowship? The pentecostal and charismatic movements have contributed both informally and formally to Christian unity. When the history of the twentieth century is written, I believe some "unintentionally ecumenical movements" (like the transdenominational search for social justice and the charismatic movement) will prove to have been more effective than the formal "ecumenical movement" in crossing the lines between Christians by breaking down stereotypes and bringing Christians together in common worship (like the big transdenominational charismatic gatherings). (21) One thinks of the work of H. Vinson Synan, son of a bishop and himself an assistant general superintendent in the Pentecostal Holiness Church (Oral Roberts' original church), as the chair of the committee of the heads of the renewal groups in the various mainline denominations (both Catholic and Protestant)-or the profoundly interdenominational character of the faculties of the divinity schools at charismatic universities like Oral Roberts and Regent. But we are also seeing major formal contributions to Christian unity on the side of even classical pentecostals. One thinks of South African David DuPlessis and Donald Gee of England, who were both ahead of their time in their work to bridge between Pentecostalism and the mainline churches. One can notice the quiet ecumenism of Dutch Pentecostalism or chronicle the ecumenical work of W. J. Hollenweger (Swiss Pentecostal, now Reformed) in the World Council of Churches and since. It breaks stereotypes to realize that Assemblies of God clergyman Mel Robeck is the professor of ecumenism at Fuller Seminary, attends Roman Catholic high level meetings in Rome with voice and vote where he drafts documents on proselytism and related topics, and plays a major role in dialogue about the restructuring of the WCC to make it more responsive to critics. We need to take a long-range view. Just as Methodism split from Anglicanism in the eighteenth century and spent the nineteenth century gaining numerical and cultural force before becoming a major force for Christian unity in the twentieth century, Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement have been gaining power to become a major uniting force in the twenty-first century. They have already demonstrated thrusts in this direction, and the sociology of the movements is on the side of the fulfillment of the Azusa Street Revival commitment to "Christian unity everywhere." But only time will tell for sure.

MR: Do you think that Arminian and pentecostal traditions are more inclined to adapt to the culture of modernity than other traditions? And if so, why? DD: Again, I wonder what to read into this question. Part of my problem is with the word "modernity"-another of those words I try not to use. But if prompted to use the word, I would be inclined to argue that classical Reformation thelogy is more likely to adapt to the culture of modernity. I've always been fascinated with the argument of Bishop Krister Stendahl (of the Swedish Lutheran church and formerly New Testament professor at Harvard) that Luther is a major source of the "introspective conscience of the West" and thus of modern individualism that both Anabaptists and Wesleyans have struggled to combat. Or what about the discussions of Calvinism and links with the rise of capitalism-a major theme of modernity? Or what about the tendencies of the Reformed tradition to suppress the miraculous element in Christianity-in the liberal wing by the denial of its existence in the first place and in the conservative wing by Warfield's doctrine of the cessation of the gifts of healing, etc. Either way produces a style of worship that often appears to me to be accommodated to modernity and on the face of it in fundamental conflict with the New Testament. Or is this a class issue-that middle-class churches prefer a more rationalized and propositional style of worship? Or are these related issues? Or are you asking about something else-like the adaptation to "postmodernity"? It does seem to me that there might be something here, but again the issues are complex. Is the pentecostal/holiness adherence to divine healing premodern or postmodern? It certainly seems a break from modernity. I have been fascinated with the way that many pentecostal biblical scholars seem to easily move beyond the critical traditions of biblical scholarship and the conservative (and modernistic?) mirror image in the neo-evangelicals (22) into postmodern (or at least post-critical) styles of biblical interpretation. I do think a significant argument can be made that there is a pentecostal and/or holiness affinity with some themes of postmodernity: emphasis on experience, holism (unity of body and soul-as in divine healing), the ability to live with more intellectual ambiguity than was common in modernity, an ability to accept post-foundationalist philosophizing, etc. But I rather suspect that you are really worried about issues of syncretism here and that the question is about the adaptation of holiness and pentecostal movements to popular culture in an irresponsible manner. My first instinct is to raise questions of elitism and argue that both middle- and upper-class and populist forms of Christianity are syncretistic adaptations. I'm always fascinated in ecumenical dialogue that the Eastern Orthodox traditions see themselves as merely Christian orthodoxy and resist any form of syncretism (thus attracting the admiration of neo-evangelicals) when it seems so obvious to the outsider that their tradition is a form of syncretism with Greek metaphysics and culture. It is the problem that one often encounters in discussions of third-world theology. My theology is theology; yours is "contextual theology." My theology is "biblical"; yours is syncretistic! But after saying all that, I do think that it is one of the great gifts of Pentecostalism, especially, is to adapt to a variety of contexts and work its way into the nooks and crannies of a culture in such a way as to present a culturally relevant expression of the Gospel. I have reflected on these questions during several visits to Thailand. That society is Theravada Buddhist (ninety-five percent, less than one percent Christian and Muslims in the South as one approaches Malaysia). Thais have been very resistant to the Christian preaching of the Presbyterians and Congregationalists over the last couple of centuries. They are beginning to respond to Pentecostalism, and we are seeing the rise of indigenous pentecostal and holiness churches (especially the growing, in both Asia and the West, of the Hope of Bangkok Church which now has thousands of members and hundreds of congregations). Why is this so? The best answer I have is that the Thai are underneath the veneer of a rather austere and ethical tradition of Buddhism, really animists who want power over the spirits that appear to threaten their lives; thus the appeal of Pentecostalism whose Gospel brings that element of Christianity to the fore. Does this mean that Asian pentecostals produce a syncretistic form of shamanism? (23) I prefer to say the pentecostal version of Christianity happens to scratch where the Thai itch and that it has as much claim to be biblical as those forms of Protestantism that are prevented from doing that by their own syncretism with Western and European cultures (and perhaps with modernity!).

MR: What do you see as the future of Wesleyan and pentecostal movements, particularly in the United States? DD: I'm inclined to duck this question with the comment that I am neither a prophet nor a son of a prophet-only the son of a husband and wife team of seminary professors! I am more skeptical about the future of my own Wesleyan tradition which has been far outstripped by the incredible growth of Pentecostalism (in a century to perhaps a half-billion adherents or one-fourth of all Christians, if we can accept statistics that have also been quoted by MR). My own tradition has been driven back into the arms of the neo-evangelicals by its own "pyrophobia" (the irrational fear of Pentecostalism-a term coined by B. H. Irwin for his tract defending proto-Pentecostalism in its earliest years) in a way that has undercut most of its creative impulses, as well as my hopes for its future. This is especially ironic because one might argue that the culture is becoming more open to its distinctive themes and that even neo-evangelical theology may be moving in its direction. The Wesleyan tradition may, however, find a way to recover its earlier and more original dynamic and transcend the current tendency to be a mere cultural relic, a husk that was cast aside within the birth of Pentecostalism in its most radical wing. I would pray for that, but I am not optimistic. The story is different for Pentecostalism which has grown to be a dominant and powerful form of Christianity now entering its culture formation stage. Let me take the issue of theology to illustrate. We have had pentecostal seminaries (and now universities) only in this generation. We are just beginning to see the emergence of pentecostal Bible scholars and theologians working in a critical tradition. (It's a little odd and condescending, isn't it, to compare the theologies of the Reformation born in the universities of Europe with the emerging theology of a movement born in a stable in Los Angeles under the tutelage of a poorly educated black man?) I see these pentecostal scholars working with an imagination and freedom that with all their limitations promise more excitement and vigor than the neo-evangelicals. Only time will tell for sure, but I look forward to the next century with an eye on the pentecostals with the expectation that I will be helped not only with new visions of evangelism and church growth but with a new and creative era of theological insight. But we shall have to see.

I have enjoyed being forced to reflect on these issues by your questions. Thank you very much.



1 [ Back ] Quoted from Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994). However, I would say the seventeenth century anticipated it in Pietism and Puritanism.
2 [ Back ] See Ernst Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1970). Also, Ian Bradley, The Call to Seriousness: The Evangelical Impact on the Victorians (London: Cape, 1976).
3 [ Back ] Ian Bradley, op. cit.
4 [ Back ] See William McLoughlin, Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham (New York: Ronald Press Co., 1959).
5 [ Back ] Interestingly, Frank Macchia made the same point in his March 2000 presidential address at the Society for Pentecostal Studies-that Pentecostalism is closer to Trent than Luther.
6 [ Back ] See Maxim Piette, John Wesley in the Evolution of Protestantism (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1937).
7 [ Back ] See Bernard Ramm, The Evangelical Heritage: A Study in Historical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000). I see this book has just been republished by Kevin Van Hoozer of Trinity as a normative statement of "Evangelicalism" without any apparent awareness of the critique others and I have made of it, for example, Ed. Donald W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston, The Variety of American Evangelicalism (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c. 1991).
8 [ Back ] See Donald Durnbaugh, The Believers' Church: The History and Character of Radical Protestantism (New York: Macmillan, 1968) and also Howard A. Snyder, The Radical Wesley (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c. 1991).
9 [ Back ] Bernard Ramm, op. cit.
10 [ Back ] See James Leo Garrett, Jr., E. Glenn Hanson, and James E. Tull, Are Southern Baptists "Evangelicals"? (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, c. 1983).
11 [ Back ] See George Marsden's, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, c. 1987).
12 [ Back ] This is a tributary of the "name it and claim it" tradition that has found expression in the pentecostal and charismatic "gospel of health and wealth." See Dale Simmons, E. W. Kenyon and the Postbellum Pursuit of Peace, Power and Plenty (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997).
13 [ Back ] See Benjamin B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (New York: C. Scribners, 1918). Also see the two volumes of essays on Perfectionism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931).
14 [ Back ] See Noll in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, as well as David Wells from Gordon-Conwell in various places, including the pages of MR!
15 [ Back ] A. J. Gordon, The Two-Fold Life: Or Christ's Work for Us and Christ's Work in Us (Boston: Howard Gannett, c. 1883).
16 [ Back ] See Claude Welch, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, c. 1985).
17 [ Back ] Donald W. Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (New York: Harper and Row, c. 1976).
18 [ Back ] James Davison Hunter, Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).
19 [ Back ] See Barry L. Callen's recent, Clark H. Pinnock: Journey Toward Renewal: An Intellectual Biography (Nappanee, IN: Evangel Publishing House, c. 2000). Calley is editor of the Wesley Theological Journal.
20 [ Back ] Walter J. Hollenweger, Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, c. 1997).
21 [ Back ] See Doug Wead's, Father McCarthy Smokes A Pipe and Speaks in Tongues (Carol Stream, IL: Creation House, 1973).
22 [ Back ] For instance, think of someone such as Richard Longenecker in Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period telling me that the New Testament uses the Old in a way that is exegetically irresponsible by "historical critical" standards and so cannot be used by Christians today but it was permissible to the writers of the New Testament because of inspiration!
23 [ Back ] See Harvey Cox commenting on Korean Pentecostalism in his Fire From Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Publishing, c. 1995).


No bio information available for this author.

Issue: "Evangelicalism(TM) Who Owns It?" March/April 2001 Vol. 10 No. 2 Page number(s): 40-49

    You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. We do not allow reposting an article in its entirety on the Internet.  We request that you link to this article from your website.  Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by Modern Reformation (webmaster@modernreformation.org).

    Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: This article originally appeared in the [insert current issue date] edition of Modern Reformation and is reprinted with permission. For more information about Modern Reformation, visit www.modernreformation.org or call (800) 890-7556. All rights reserved.


This article is a permanently featured article, it will be available indefinitely.

donate | contact us | customer service | terms of use | privacy policy | submissions
Copyright © 2014 White Horse Inn