Word Counts

wordcount.pngI remember writing papers early in my schooling. I was always looking for ways to pad my word count to reach the desired number of pages.  That is no longer the case for me.  These days I am learning how to abide by a word count.

This morning I submitted a paper for the Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting coming up in March.  I submitted a proposal of some research I was working on so I was confident I would have something to present.  However, when my proposal was accepted, the instructions said my presentation could only be 15 minutes long.  My first draft of my paper was 36 pages in length.  As I timed myself, I was only able to cover a third of the paper in 15 minutes.  That’s a problem.

For the past few months I have been paring down that 36 pages of research to 13 pages.  It has been a painful process.  It took me hours and hours of writing to produce those 36 pages. Now I was deleting whole paragraphs and excluding valuable research.  However as I slowly trimmed and reworded my paper, a much better version of my research emerged.  I was making my argument clearer by including only  the most important research.  I have learned that the impulse to add words that I had learned early in my career was hurting my ability to write. Had it not been for a word count, I would not have given my best research in the paper.

In my writing I am learning to say more in less words.  (and blogging. Only 300 words!). My next goal is to do the same for my preaching. In fact, I think it would be good if i limited my words in all kinds of areas like my opinions, my relationships and on social media.

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.

“Those Things Most Surely Believed Among Us”

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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.