Christianity Today just published an interview with Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. It’s a concise and interesting interview, well worth the read. It comes on the heels of his latest book: The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and Wesleyanism. According to editor Mark Galli, in this book, Witherington “makes a positive argument for how biblical interpretation should be done in an increasingly postmodern setting.”
Here’s the link to the article:
The Problem with Evangelical Theologies
Ben Witherington III thinks there is something fundamentally weak about each branch of the movement.
posted 11/09/2005 09:00 a.m. |
Here’s an excerpt that is clearly relevant for Pentecostals:
So, what is the problem with evangelical theology?
It has exegetical weaknesses that are not recognized or owned up to by the various evangelical Protestant strains of theology. That’s what it boils down to.
You write that in our distinctives, we are least faithful to the Word. What do you mean?
The issue is not really with Christology, the Trinity, the virginal conception, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or the Bible as the Word of God. The issues I’m concerned about are the distinctives of Calvinist, Arminian, dispensational, or Pentecostal theology. When they try to go some particular direction that’s specific to their theological system, that’s precisely the point in their argument at which they are exegetically weakest.
The Calvinist system links the ideas of predestination, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. Each of those has its own exegetical weaknesses, especially perseverance of the saints.
But the same can be said about the distinctives of Arminian theology, especially when you start talking about having an experience of perfection in this lifetime. There are problems matching that up with what the New Testament says about perfection.
The same can be said about Pentecostal theology, with its teaching about a second, definitive work of grace, and about dispensationalism, with its teaching on pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation rapture. I show in my book that all of these evangelical theological systems are exegetically vulnerable precisely in their distinctives.
Classical Pentecostals need to think about this. One things we talk about the most in our circle is “the Pentecostal distinctive,” which is typically cited as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues as the initial, physical evidence.” This is the Pentecostal distinctive above all others.
However, one of the “tags” we’ve long been known by, or called ourselves by at the least, has been “Full Gospel,” as a way of saying, we’re completely dependent on the Bible as God’s revealed will and plan.
In fact, at our movement’s inception, at Parham’s prompting of several adult students, the Baptism of the Spirit was experienced as a result of an intensive study of Scripture. Scripture came first, experience and doctrine came out of that.
Somewhere, we’ve lost our way.
As long as a single doctrine holds sway in our Fellowship as the single Pentecostal distinctive, we cannot be fully reliant on the Scriptures as our guide for faith, doctrine, and practice. We need to maintain our true distinctive, and that is: sola scriptura.
[tags]BlogRodent, Pentecostal, Assembly-of-God, Assemblies-of-God, tongues, glossolalia, Ben-Witherington, theology, narrative-theology, exegesis, interpretation, Bible, Scripture, denominations, Foursquare, Church-of-God, Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Wesleyanism, Christianity-Today[/tags]