SPS Paper 2017

I just submitted my proposal for a paper for the 2017 meeting of the Society of Pentecostal Studies.  My proposal last year did not make the program. I am really hoping this paper will be accepted.  SPS is a community of scholars that have the opportunity to read each other’s work and give feedback. The purpose is to advance the field of Pentecostal scholarship and is a great encouragement to those of us working in the area of Pentecostal studies.  I am hoping to add my voice to the conversation with this paper.  The research I have been doing on my dissertation has led me to uncover things in AG history that I don’t believe others have noted.

Here is my paper proposal:

The Pentecostals Evangelical Church: the theological self-identity of the Assemblies of God as evangelical “plus”.  

The quest for articulating a truly Pentecostal theology has been of primary concern to Pentecostal scholars. The heart of Pentecostal theology has been pneumatically oriented and is represented by five-fold gospel of Jesus as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Spirit-baptizer and Coming King. This pneumatological orientation has led many to argue that Pentecostal theology is not simply evangelical theology plus a doctrine of the Spirit. Further, it is suggested that the adoption of evangelical/fundamentalist approaches to theological inquiry and hermeneutics are foreign to the ethos of early Pentecostalism. Despite these recent attempts to find an alternative identity for the Pentecostal movement as a whole, this paper will show that the Assemblies of God has always self-identified as evangelical ‘plus.’ A study of the periodical literature of the early years of the Assemblies of God reveals that an evangelical identity became an important self-identification from the very beginning. They saw themselves as evangelicals who also believed in the Pentecostal baptism with the Spirit and speaking in tongues. This evangelical identity was expressed in literature, bible school courses and even resulted in an attempt to officially change the name of the Assemblies of God to “The Pentecostal Evangelical Church” in 1925.   During the next decade, the evangelical identity was challenged when the fundamentalist community ‘disfellowshipped’ the Pentecostal community.  Today, the Pentecostal theological community is returning the favor by disfellowshiping evangelicalism as an acceptable Pentecostal identity. Pentecostal scholars have become embarrassed by the historic ties to evangelicalism and its preoccupation with fundamentalist dispensationalism, political religion and rigid modernistic impulses. The largest group of scholars who have recognized the theological tensions of accepting an evangelical identity are within the AG family. Yet, the move to distance Pentecostalism from evangelical theology is a denial of its historic character and theological antecedents. This paper will explore the historical  evangelical identity as an important expression of Pentecostal theology, rather than being foreign to early Pentecostalism. It will look at the ways in which turn of the Century evangelical theology gave birth to the Pentecostal movement. Virtually every theological impulse that characterizes Pentecostalism was already present in late 19th Century evangelicals. The dominant AG theological views of the ‘latter rain’, Spirit empowerment, healing, pre-millennial eschatology, and finished work sanctification were all inherited from late 19th century radical evangelical theology. This paper will also argue that The Assemblies of God represents a theological stream within Pentecostalism that is essentially pentecostalized evangelical theology. Finally this paper will look at the ways in which the evangelical theology was modified and the ways in which tensions were reconciled within the Assemblies of God understanding of Pentecostal theology.

I don’t need a PhD

LifeAfterPhDA lot of people ask me why I a getting a PhD.  Am I doing it so I can teach? So I can write?  I have thought about that lot over this journey.

Nearly 20 years ago, God first put it in my heart to get a PhD.  I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in my first year at ORU doing an undergraduate degree in theology. I had no idea I would go to post graduate work.  In fact, I didn’t even know how to get to that level of education.  My parents had both finished a masters in education in college. But neither of them stayed in education.  And I don’t remember going to college being stressed all that often growing up.  But that day in my first year at ORU, I heard God speak and ever since I have been on that journey.

In 2000, I graduated with my Bachelors.  I also started working full time in ministry so I wasn’t concerned about doing my masters right away. But it soon became clear, I couldn’t get away from it. So in 2002 I started a masters and finished 5 years later.  At that point I knew i was ready to start post-graduate work.  My professors insprired me with a love for theology and encouraged my gifts. In 2008 I started applying.  I loved ORU so much I wanted to come back to be a teacher there.  But you can’t teach theology without a terminal degree. If you were to ask me at that point, why I was doing it I would have said, “so I can teach at ORU.”  At that time, in my mind, I needed degree to get where I am going. I needed a PhD.

In 2010, God called me to pastor at New Life Center and I put that dream on hold. Something happened during that 5 year break. God has slowly been teaching me that  my whole life is a calling.  Pastoring has a way of purging your own desires for the sake of God’s dreams for your life.  Everything God asks me to do in my life is a calling. Who I marry, how I parent, where I pastor and what degrees I pursue. He told me to be a pastor.  It was not my choice.  There is no end game. I am not serving in order to become something else. Pastoring is not a stepping stone. It is a calling. I do it for Him and for as long as he needs me to do it.

Five years later, now that I am back pursuit of a PhD, I do it for different reasons.  I don’t need a PhD. I am not doing it gain the necessary credentials to be a professor. I am not doing it achieve a level in church ministry.  I don’t even care about the title.  At this point, I don’t even care if I ever end up at ORU like I had dreamed years ago.   I am doing my PhD because I am called to do so.  God has an assignment for me, whether I ever “use” this degree or not.

This is the beauty of my journey right now.  I believe the work I am doing in my research on the Assemblies of God is valuable in and of itself. It will ultimately be a gift to the body of Christ that God has called me to give.  This degree is a calling.  I don’t need it, but do need to do it.  God has called me.  So I write. And to quote Eric Liddell, “When I write, I feel His pleasure.”

Pastors: Can I have your books?

20150630_095701Dear AG Pastor,

I know you have too many books.  We pastors love books. My shelves are overflowing.  I know yours are too. Here is a chance to get rid of some of them.   I am working on my PhD doing research on Assemblies of God doctrine.  Right now I am looking for sources in two areas: Bible Doctrines and Eschatology (Bible Prophecy).  I am surveying all of these books to understand what the AG believes on these topics and how these sources relate to the Statement of Fundamental Truths.  Most of these books were published between 1930-1960.  I can read them the ORU Library, but they don’t have all of them.  I would LOVE to have my own copies of all of these books.  I will be working with them for the next 6 years and having my own copies would be a great blessing.  Plus, I just love collecting primary sources when I study a topic.   Many of these books are probably in your office or in your church library collecting dust. Can  I have your books?

I am looking for all editions, the older the better, published by Gospel Publishing House on the topics of either Bible Doctrine (16 Fundamentals) or Bible Prophecy (Eschatology, Return of Jesus, Dispensational Studies, Revelation).

Major authors include:

  • P. C. Nelson – Bible Doctrines
  • E. S. Williams – Systematic Theology
  • Myer Pearlman – Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible

Other Authors include:

  • Frank Boyd – All his Prophecy books
  • Stanley Frodsham – Things Shortly Come to Pass
  • Ralph Riggs
  • Ralph W. Harris
  • Stanley Horton
  • John G. Hall

If you have any of these old AG books published by Gospel Publishing House and would be willing to donate them to me for my work, I would be so grateful.

Email me at pastorisgrigg@gmail.com

Below is a bibliography of works I am looking for:

Carlson, G. Ramond Our Faith and Our Fellowship (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1977).

Johns, Donald F. Fundamentals of the Faith (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1962)

Ralph W. Harris Our Faith and Fellowship (Teachers Manual) (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1963).

Horton, Stanley M. Bible Prophecy (Teachers Manual) (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1963)

Horton, Stanley Into All Truth (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1955)

Horton, Stanley It’s Getting Late (Springfield, MO; Gospel Publishing House, 1975)

Hall, J. G. Dispensations of the Eternal Program of God (Springfield, MO: 1957).

Hall, J. G. Prophecy Marches On (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1963).

Hall, J. G. Prophecy Marches On (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1966)

Pearlman, Myer Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible (GPH)

Pearlman, Myer, Seeing the Story of the Bible (GPH)

Riggs, R. M. The Bible’s Backbone (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1945).

Riggs, Ralph M. God’s Calendar of Coming Events (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1962).

Riggs, Ralph M. The Path of Prophecy (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1937).

Riggs, Ralph M. The Story of the Future (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1968). Bs647.2.r5

Riggs, Ralph M. We Believe (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1954)

Ward, C. M. What You Should Know About Prophecy (Springfield, MO: Radient Books, 1975) 7

Williams, E. S. Systematic Theology Vol 1-3 (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1953).

Winehouse, Irwin The Assemblies of God: A Popular Survey (New York: NY: Vantage Press, 1959)

“Those Things Most Surely Believed Among Us”

1914_04

Since going to my first seminar in May, I have been focusing my research on several areas that deal with what the Assemblies of God believes about eschatology.  Right now I am doing research in the primary sources, particularly early sources like periodicals and books published by the AG.  The goal is to find out what the AG says they believe (16 Fundamental truths), what those who write about what the AG believes say they believe (Bible Doctrine books), and what those who are in the AG, who write about what they believe, say they believe (articles in the periodicals).

1.  AG Periodicals

I  have been reading through the early issues of Word and Witness (1912-1915), a periodical by E.N. Bell.  I have been looking at every article that mentions eschatology and making notes of significant thoughts and ideas from these early works. I am looking for common threads of their belief in the return of Jesus. More so, I am trying to see how these early pentecostals related the outpouring of the Spirit to their belief in the return of Jesus.  Did they have a “Pentecostal” eschatology.  This is slow work, but important.  I have many more issues to go of this and other periodicals of the Assemblies of God.

2.  AG Bible Doctrine Books 

The other place I am doing research is to read all the AG books about the bible doctrines to see how they relate to the statement of Fundamental Truths.  Some of the books are direct articulations of each of the 16 Fundamentals. Some are organized like systematic theology texts and group the chapters by theological categories such as Doctrine of God, Man, Sin, Salvation, etc.  It is interesting reading.  I am surprised by two observations:  1) I had often heard and believed that early AG founders and writers were not trained theologians.  Its not true. Many of these writers were well trained and understood theology, but chose to write works that only quoted scripture.  They had the capacity to interact with other theological traditions and views, but chose instead to try to set out what “the Bible says”.  2) There are relatively few Bible Doctrine books for the Assemblies of God.  Infact, the most popular book used by ministers is Bible Doctrines by P.C. Nelson which was written in 1936 and is still in print. So far I have identified around a dozen works devoted simply to explanation of the doctrine of the Assemblies of God.

3. SPS Proposal

This leads to the final part of my research this month.  I have been working on something I could submit as a paper to the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies next March.  SPS is an annual meeting of Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars for the purpose of presenting and receiving peer feedback on work they are doing in their field of study.  I presented a paper on my work on Howard M. Ervin in 2008 at Duke University.  I am excited to return now that I am back in my program.

Following my research on these Bible doctrine books, I have found it interesting to observe how these works function as expressions of the 16 Fundamental truths.  Some of them are Truth by Truth explanations of each statement.  Some, however, neither mention the STF or the Assemblies of God.  Many have introductions written by important officials of the Assemblies of God.  What these leaders say about each work varies as to how authoritatively the author speaks on behalf of AG doctrine. o I have much more research to do to understand this relationship. But this is the paper that I will be presenting next March at SPS.   Below is my proposal.  I am excited about it.  Not bad for my first month of work. Here is my proposal:

“Those Things Most Surely Believed Among Us: The Shifting Roll of the Bible Doctrine Genre As An Authoritative Interpretation of the Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths.”

This paper will look at the relationship of the books on bible doctrine produced by Assemblies of God leaders to the Statement of Fundamental truths.   The Statement of Fundamental Truths was not intended to be a “creed” for the fellowship but a statement of unification on essential beliefs. Further clarification of “those things most surely believed among us” we often expressed in various articles in the early AG periodicals. Some early leaders and educators at the AG Bible Institutes saw the need for a more comprehensive work on the doctrines of the Bible to be book form. The first such book on AG bible doctrine, P.C. Nelson’s Bible Doctrines was published twenty years after the STF was adopted. Others followed in what Jacobsen calls the “Scholastic Period” of the Assemblies of God. This paper will analyze how these works functioned as an expression of the SFT. As clarification was given to what the AG believed, what authority would these books on bible doctrine hold? How would these works serve as authoritative interpretations of the Statement of Fundamental truths? This paper will look the stated purpose of more than a dozen books on Bible doctrines that were published by Gospel Publishing House up to the present day. This paper will demonstrate a shift in relationship over time of these works on Bible Doctrine and their place as authoritative interpretations of the Statement of Fundamental Truths.

 

Pilgrimage Into PhD Studies Pt. 2


20150519_121041This past weekend I went to my first PhD seminar at the Centre for Pentecostal Theology in Cleveland, Tennessee. It was an amazing experience.  I am so excited to be part of the Bangor University (Wales) PhD program.  I was so impressed with the environment of great scholarship and warm hospitality.  I was able to sit around a table with 15 other future Pentecostal scholars and discuss issues important to my research.  And the scholars who lead the program are not only brilliant, but were also very kind and encouraging.   For my pursuits in Pentecostal Theology, I don’t believe there is a better program.  But Bangor was not my original plan when I set out to get a PhD nearly a decade ago.

In 2007, when I graduated with a MA in Theology from ORU, I began to make plans to apply to PhD programs.  My wife and I had always wanted to live in Great Britain.  Doing a PhD there was the perfect way to see that dream come true. My ORU advisor, Dr. Daniel Thimell had studied in Scotland at the University of Aberdeen and his friend and fellow PhD student Trevor Hart was now a professor at St. Andrews in Scotland. Dr. Hart had published a work on eschatology and his colleague, Richard Bauckham is one of the foremost experts on the Book of Revelation.  Bauckham’s book The Theology of The Book of Revelation was one of the reasons I wanted to study eschatology in my PhD. It seemed like the perfect fit for me.

I applied in 2008 to St. Andrews and was accepted into the PhD program.  However, we found out that St. Andrews also wanted me to do a MPhil (which is very common) before entering the PhD program.  That meant I would have to add another year to my study there.  Not long after, we found out we were pregnant with our first child.   I didn’t see how I could move my wife and new-born child to Scotland and have no way to provide for them for 5-6 years.  We discussed it, prayed about it and I decided to decline my acceptance to St. Andrews.  It was very hard to do because it had been a dream for so long.  But God had a plan to fulfill that dream in a different way than I thought.

At that moment, the dream of doing a PhD in the UK was over. I needed a new dream now. I knew I had to go back to the basics of what I knew for sure.  I knew I wanted to get a PhD. I knew I wanted to write about Pentecostal Eschatology.  I knew I wanted my PhD to be from a UK University. PhD programs are different in the UK than they are in the US.  The US system begins with a couple of years of classes before you begin doing your research and writing.  The British PhD is purely research and writing. That sounded much better to me.

While I was preparing my thesis proposal for St. Andrews, I contacted Dr. Peter Althouse, a Pentecostal scholar at Southeastern (Assemblies of God) University.  Dr. Althouse had just published a work on Pentecostal Eschatology and I wanted to find out what he thought of my thesis idea.  Peter told me that if I ever changed my mind about St. Andrews, that Southeastern was offering a PhD through Bangor University in Wales.   He thought my research interests would be perfect for the new program. Months later when I made the decision to decline acceptance to St. Andrews, I knew I had another option that could fit my research.  So I decided to join the Bangor program at Southeastern.

Bangor_UniversityThe Bangor PhD in Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies was founded at Bangor University in Wales by Pentecostal Scholar and Educator, William K. Kay.  Professor Kay began this program to offer PhD opportunities to students interested in Pentecostal theology and history.  Dr. Kay began working with Southeastern University in Lakeland Florida to offer the PhD to American students.  Dr. Kay, Dr. Althouse and several others would supervise students in this program and students only had to come to SEU twice a year to fulfill the residency requirement for a UK PhD.  I decided to apply, was accepted and began my new journey to PhD in Pentecostal Eschatology in 2009. William Kay and Peter Althouse agreed to supervise me and I began working on my thesis.

In March of 2010 when I came to New Life Center to be the lead pastor I decided to drop out of the program for a while. I didn’t have the emotional energy (or monetary resources) to pastor my first church and work on my PhD.  Plus, the program went through some changes that resulted in Dr. Kay moving to another university in Wales.

20150518_154721Five years later, I am back in the program.  Bangor’s  Centre for Pentecostal Theology is now operating out of the campus of the Church of God Seminary in Cleveland Tennessee.  The new director is John Christopher Thomas, a well-known NT scholar in the area of Pentecostal studies.  CPT has grown in its influence in the past 5 years.  This Bangor PhD is producing many great Pentecostal scholars.  CPT has its own journal (Journal for Pentecostal Theology) and its own academic press (CPT Press).  Most of the dissertations done at CPT have the opportunity to be published after graduating from Bangor.

As I look back on this pilgrimage into my PhD studies, the move to the Bangor Program was very important for me in several ways:

1.  Bangor is a Pentecostal PhD.  My PhD at St. Andrews would be in Theology, but at CPT I get to do my best work in the area of my own Pentecostal tradition with the input of Pentecostal scholars.  Being at Bangor has helped me realize that what is most important to me is to contribute to Pentecostal theology. That is where I want to make my mark.

2.  My supervisors at Bangor are experts in my field of Pentecostal Eschatology.  William Kay is a prolific scholar in the areas of Pentecostalism, the Assemblies of God, and Eschatology.  J.C. Thomas is a Biblical scholar who has written about Pentecostal History, Eschatology and the Book of Revelation.  And Peter Althouse is a expert in Pentecostal Eschatology and is an example of how an AG professor can make a positive contribution to the conversation about current AG doctrine.  I couldn’t ask for better theological mentors than these.

3.  Bangor has allowed me to stay where we are, raise our family around our extended family, and pastor a wonderful AG church. Choosing Bangor gave me opportunity to do ministry, provide for my family and gain experience in being a Pentecostal Pastor, not just a Pentecostal scholar.  This would not have been the case most likely in Scotland.

4.  Bangor will provide many more opportunities for my work.  I have better access to opportunities to publish in the JPT journal and my dissertation will get published with CPT Press when I am finished.  Plus, CPT is where Pentecostals are doing research right now. This center is growing in its reach and influence.

We didn’t get to live the dream of living in the UK.  But God is fulfilling that dream in a different way through this Bangor PhD from CPT.  I am so blessed to be part of the outstanding scholarship, nurturing peer relationships and accessibility provided in this program.  I am right where God wants me to be.

Pilgrimage into PhD Studies Pt. 1

Bangor_UniversityThis week I go to my first residency requirement for my PhD at Bangor University, UK.  It has been five years since I left the program in order to focus on my position as pastor of New Life Center.  But this weekend I return to those pursuits officially.  It has been a long journey. Shortly after high school, I gave my life to Jesus Christ.

As I grew as a Christian, people began to recognize my ability to understand God’s word and help others understand it as well.  It didn’t take long to see that God was calling me to ministry.  So I began to look at options for college.  My parents were both educated and I assumed I would go to college as well.  But being called to ministry, I questioned the need to go college and decided to enroll in Rhema Bible College in Broken Arrow.

The day I was supposed to go to Rhema for my freshman orientation, I was driving by our local community college and I heard God say as clearly as any time in my life, “Pull in.”  I pulled into the circle drive in front of the college and God said, “Don’t go to Rhema.  Enroll here.”  I didn’t understand it at the time but God clearly wanted me to go to a university and not bible college.  After a semester at TCC, I applied to Oral Roberts University.


121787-004-CE54490EIt didn’t take long at ORU to understand  why God changed my path.  From the very first class at ORU i realized God made me for theological education.   I loved my theology classes.  They opened my eyes to so many aspects of God that I would have missed in a bible college.  I began to hunger for theology, church history, early church fathers and systematic theology. As a new ORU student, they made me go to a few different seminars on student life.  One of them changed my life forever.  A communications professor, Dr. Jonny MacAllen, did a talk on achieving our dreams.  He talked about growing up poor and yet reaching to the highest level of education when he earned a PhD.  Dr Mac told us, “If a poor kid like me can achieve a dream of PhD, you can too.”  In that moment, God spoke to my heart.  From that day, I decided that God was calling me to pursue higher education.  I knew God was leading me to do a PhD.

This weekend I pick up that dream from 18 years ago.  Don’t give up on your dream.  If a kid like me can become a PhD, you can too. In my next blog, I will share how I found my program.