NEWS: Pentecostalism Compared to Star Trek

The_Pentecost_Latter_half_of_18th_cHistorian Anthea Butler considers the ever-changing nature of American Pentecostalism, comparing it to the tribble, a fictional animal on the original Star Trek series. The creature reproduced rapidly and ate everything with which it came into contact. In like manner, Butler suggests that “Pentecostalism and certain segments of the movement (namely, the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ and the ‘New Apostolic Movements’) have mutated like tribbles, choking off their Pentecostal origins, multiplying to such a degree that it is difficult to distinguish the broader Pentecostal movement and historic churches from the mutants.” Historically, Pentecostalism has been a bit of a moving target, difficult to classify. Much like the evangelical subculture it has been able to reinvent itself. Butler considers the many post-Pentecostal expressions such as Charismatic, Word of Faith, Third Wave, Full Gospel, Prosperity churches, and non-denominational. Practice is key to the larger Pentecostal phenomenon as the theological focus is often the “Gifts of the Spirit:” speaking and interpretation of tongues, exorcism, healings, words of wisdom, and prophetic utterances. Butler argues that contemporary Charismatic movement leadership often deemphasizes “audience healings and testimonies,” allowing themselves to become “advertisements for the movement; highlighting their expensive cars, airplanes, homes, and perfectly-toned bodies as a way to show their parishioners and followers across the world that prosperity was the way.” Butler considers the influence of the modern movement’s forerunners who popularized the Word of Faith and Latter Rain movements, which “relied on ‘extra’ revelation outside of the Bible, given to a special group of leaders that God had appointed.” She hints at the manner in which these movements might operate within and affect contemporary politics, considering the influence of modern leaders such as John Wimber and C. Peter Wagner. According to Butler, many within the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) “believe that in order to bring about the coming of Christ, Apostles must be recognized, and the government should be run by Christians in order to cleanse the world for Christ’s coming.” She concludes by arguing that the current pentecostal-inspired movement is unlike early Pentecostalism, suggesting that “[f]or a movement that started out with a millennial orientation, it has certainly become enamored with the world, and remaining powerful within it in every way.” Read the full article here.

Related articles:

$1.99 - small The Future of Protestantism: The Rise of Pentecostalism By Allan Anderson, From The Blackwell Companion to Protestantism

$1.99 - small The Holy Spirit in Christian Spirituality By Robert Davis Hughes III, From The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality

$1.99 - small Teaching & Learning Guide for: The Social Ethic of Religiously Unaffiliated Spirituality By Siobhan Chandler, (Religion Compass 2008, March 2008) Religion Compass

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