Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and John MacArthur’s #StrangeFire Conference

John-MacArthurMaybe you haven’t heard of John MacArthur. He hosted a conference recently called Strange Fire in which he accused charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity of “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” the only unforgivable sin according to Jesus in Mark 3:29. It’s a pretty tremendous accusation to make against half a billion Christians. This has caused quite a stir in the evangelical blogosphere with responses from Adrian Warnock, Trevin Wax, Tim Challies, Michael Brown, Brandan Robertson, and others. So how does Jesus use the phrase “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” and it is it compatible with MacArthur’s accusations? Continue reading

Why Tony Jones (and other emergents) should read Amos Yong’s Pentecostal theology

I posted recently about the debacle that Tony Jones got into partly because of his statement that “the nascent Pentecostalism practiced in much of the Global South would benefit from being in dialogue with the older, more developed theologies of the West.” Well, I’ve been reading The Spirit Poured Out On All Flesh, a book by Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong, who could hardly be called “nascent.” He’s kind of like the Pentecostal Scot McKnight, well within the bounds of what evangelical sensibilities call “orthodox” while very sympathetic to postmodern concerns and critiques. And he offers a pneumatological account of atonement that seems to address a lot of the issues the emergents have with the traditional evangelical account of atonement, so he’s somebody that emergents like Tony really ought to read and learn from.

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“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (salvation AS Pentecost)

To prepare for Pentecost, I’ve been reading Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong’s The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh. Yong argues for a “pneumatological soteriology” (Spirit-centered account of salvation) that “would be in contrast to soteriologies that tend to bifurcate the work of Christ and of the Spirit… articulated by Protestant scholasticism… [in which] Christ provides salvation objectively (e.g., in justification) and the Spirit accomplishes salvation subjectively (e.g., in sanctification)” (82). In the prophecy from Joel that Peter quotes on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, God makes an incredible promise: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” What if this statement is taken as the centerpiece of God’s salvation of humanity and the world? What if the salvation made possible through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ finds its full expression in the perpetual Pentecost poured out by the Holy Spirit? Continue reading

Tony Jones & the white emergentsia’s “Pentecostal problem”

Because I like to go against the grain, I wanted to try to stick up for Tony Jones (or sympathetically deconstruct him?) since he’s taken a lot of heat (here, here, here, here) in the progressive Christian blogosphere lately for his exhibition of white male privilege, most recently a rant about  “being called a racist.” I’m less interested in arguing with anyone else’s criticisms or reflections which have generally been useful and thoughtful than I am in looking more deeply at the specific context that got Tony into trouble for better diagnostic and learning purposes. Basically, the “emergent” theology that appeals to post-evangelicals who grow up in a privileged context is very different than the theology that attracts the poor in the Global South, with whom emergent post-evangelicals desperately want to be in solidarity and whose theological dissonance is a huge source of anxiety. This is what I would call the white emergentsia’s “Pentecostal problem.” Continue reading

How I became a Pentecostal preacher

Okay so I’m still officially a United Methodist, but I became a Pentecostal preacher this week. I’ve decided to describe what happened to me in a matter-of-fact way even though it was paranormal. Here’s a summary. Wednesday morning, at a prayer meeting, I started speaking in tongues, which I had done before, but without fully owning the gift since I wasn’t sure whether it was “Jesus Camp” fake or not. Then Thursday morning, I was posting a blog piece to the Huffington Post and God didn’t like what I had to say so He made the power flicker at the church so I lost everything I wrote and had to rewrite it the way He wanted it. Thursday night, I wrote a 7667 word prophecy overnight over the course of about 5 hours after which I had an enormous pain in the top of my abdomen which made me think I was going to die. Then I took a bath and had some sort of awful spiritual encounter with Satan in which I made awful spiritual utterances which seemed really loud to me even though my wife in the next room couldn’t hear, and I asked God to throw somebody “into the lake of fire,” then wept and laughed uncontrollably. Friday morning I went walking at Burke Lake and the air was so bright and beautiful that I literally thought I was going to run into Jesus on the path. Then Saturday night, I preached a sermon completely extemporaneously though I had generally thought through the ground I was going to cover. I hope you’ll still be my friend even though life has gotten a little strange. Continue reading