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Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Robeck. The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, CUP, 2014

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 27•15

Robeck, Cecil M., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism. Cambridge Companions to Religion. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

9780521188388This volume of the Cambridge Companion is on Pentecostalism, one of the most dominant movements in Christian history. This collection of essays is divided into three parts: historical, regional and disciplinary perspectives.
The first essay in the first section by Cecil M. Robeck is on historiographical approaches to the study of Pentecostalism. He surveys the different approaches to the pentecostal historiography labelled as, ‘providential approach’, ‘genetic approach’ ‘multi-cultural approach’, and ‘functional approach.’
In his historical survey ‘Charismatic Renewal and Neo-Pentecostalism’ McClymond argues that the ‘big-bang’ theory of global Pentecostalism must be avoided. He argues that twentieth century global Pentecostalism must be imagined as ‘a String of Firecrackers.’ He thus rejects a euro-centric approach. He also warns that like any other renewal movement Pentecostalism may also lose its vigour over the years.
David A. Reed’s article (‘Then and Now: The Many faces of Global Oneness Pentecostalism’) is on the Oneness Pentecostalism, which is often disregarded in mainline Pentecostal discussions. This provides a useful summary of the theological foundations of Oneness Pentecostalism, its global appeal and its history.
The second part consisting of five essays deals with regional issues. They are not all historical surveys but focussed on specific issues that Pentecostalism faces in different regions. A wide spectrum of regions are covered: North America, Europe and former Soviet Union, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. None of these are comprehensive treatment of all issues or concerns in the scope of essays.
The most important part of this book is the third part dealing with disciplinary perspectives. In fact the essays in this section deals with the state of scholarship on various aspects of Pentecostalism. These essays cover politics, culture, sociology, spirituality, theology, ecumenism, religions.
Calvin L. Smith (‘The Politics and the Economics of Pentecostalism: A Global Survey’) sketches Pentecostal engagement with politics. This ranges from Pentecostal individuals who rose to power to become heads of state to the indirect impact of Pentecostalism on politics and economy in various parts of the world.
Andre Droogers (‘The Cultural Dimension of Pentecostalism’) defines culture as the human effort to bring meaning to reality. With this wider definition he examines the cultural dimensions of Pentecostalism.
Michael Wilkinson’s article (‘Sociological Narratives and Sociology of Pentecostalism’) is a study of the sociological approaches to Pentecostalism. In this essay we meet significant authors and methodologies used in the sociology of Pentecostalism.
The essay on Pentecostal spirituality by Daniel E. Albrecht and Evan B. Howard as well the one on Pentecostal Theology by Mark J. Cartledge are significant contributions in the respective areas.
Wolfgang Vondey in ‘Pentecostalism and Ecumenism’ explores the various ways that Pentecostals approach interdenominational cooperation. In the process Vondey also highlights the ‘ecumenical impulses’ among the early Pentecostals and present state of its engagement with the ecumenical movement. He also presents a theological assessment of Pentecostal approaches to the nature, purpose and unity of Christians.
In ‘Pentecostal Mission and Encounter with Religions’ Veli-Matti Karkkainen, gives a survey of Pentecostal missiologies from the very beginning to the current developments. He also deals with how contemporary Pentecostals struggle with the issue of religious pluralism and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. He specifically focusses on the pioneering works of Amos Yong and Samuel Solivan in this regard.
Pentecostalism is around just over a century but academic study of Pentecostalism hasn’t reached its half century mark yet. However, this is a vibrant discipline within the study of religion, theology, history, sociology, etc. No Christian movement may have received such academic attention from within and without (other disciplines). It is so vibrant that the editor of the book admits that, ‘… much of what appears in this book is practically dated even as it comes off the press’! The essays in this book summarizes studies on a movement, which is widespread over many disciplines, many languages and regions. So, here in this volume we have a snapshot of Pentecostalism as an academic discipline. This is indeed an essential beginner for the academic study of Pentecostalism.