Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods

Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods

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With its remarkable ability to adapt to many different cultures, Pentecostalism has become the world’s fastest growing religious movement. More than five hundred million adherents worldwide have reshaped Christianity itself. Yet some fundamental questions in the study of global Pentecostalism, and even in what we call “Pentecostalism,” remain largely unaddressed. Bringing together leading scholars in the social sciences, history, and theology, this unique volume explores these questions for this rapidly growing, multidisciplinary field of study. A valuable resource for anyone studying new forms of Christianity, it offers insights and guidance on both theoretical and methodological issues.

The first section of the book examines such topics as definitions, essentialism, postcolonialism, gender, conversion, and globalization. The second section features contributions from those working in psychology, anthropology, sociology, and history. The third section traces the boundaries of theology from the perspectives of pneumatology, ecumenical studies, inter-religious relations, and empirical theology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520266629
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 09/24/2010
Series: The Anthropology of Christianity , #10
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 338
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Allan Anderson is Professor of Global Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Michael Bergunder is Professor of History of Religions and Mission Studies at the University of Heidelberg. André Droogers is Professor Emeritus of Cultural Anthropology at the VU University Amsterdam. Cornelis van der Laan is Professor of Pentecostal Studies in the Faculty of Theology at VU University Amsterdam.

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Studying Global Pentecostalism

Theories and Methods

By Allan Anderson, Michael Bergunder, André Droogers, Cornelis van der Laan


Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-94750-4


Varieties, Taxonomies, and Definitions

Allan Anderson

This chapter is about defining Pentecostalism/s, in view of the fact that definitions are often static and prone to generate confusion. It seeks to give some clarity to the discussion of ways in which Pentecostalism can be described and analyzed, and it tries to offer direction through the maze of different shifting forms of Pentecostalism/s. In addition, it outlines some of the ways in which this movement can be identified by using the family resemblance analogy. It looks at the parameters by which we make categories, offers a flexible and overlapping taxonomy, and examines how various scholars have approached the subject.


The globalization of various kinds of Pentecostalism is a fact of our time, and its proliferation into such a complex variety is bewildering. With its offer of the power of the Spirit to all, regardless of education, language, race, class or gender, Pentecostalism in its early years became a movement that subverted the conventions of the time. Its methods were not so dependent on Western specialists and the transmission of Western forms of Christian liturgy and leadership. Part of our new task in the twenty-first century is to reflect on the role of Pentecostalism in the majority world in the transformation of Christianity, or what Andrew Walls has called "the change in Christianity's centre of gravity." Pentecostalism in all its diversity, both inside and outside the older churches, was probably the fastest expanding religious movement worldwide in the twentieth century, and by the beginning of this century it had expanded into almost every nation on earth. According to one debatable estimate, it had well over half a billion adherents by the end of the century, a quarter of the world's Christian population. However, much depends on what is included in these figures, which are considerably inflated by including such large movements as African and Chinese independent churches and Catholic Charismatics.

Although the term Pentecostalism is now widely used by scholars of religion, most of them assuming they know what it means, it embraces churches as widely diverseasthecelibacy-practicingCeylonPentecostalMission;thesabbatarianTrue Jesus Church in China, with a "Oneness" theology; the enormous, uniform-wearing, ritualistic Zion Christian Church in southern Africa; and Brazil's equally enormous and ritualistic, prosperity-oriented Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. These are lumped together with the Assemblies of God, various Churches of God, the Catholic Charismatic movement, "neo-Charismatic" independent churches that espouse prosperity and "Word of Faith" theologies, the "Third Wave" evangelical movement, with its use of spiritual gifts framed within a theology that does not posit a subsequent experience of Spirit baptism, and many other forms of Charismatic Christianity as diverse as Christianity itself. All these are labeled "Pentecostalism." Clearly, such a widely inclusive definition is problematic and leads to wild speculations about the extent of the movement. Some American Pentecostal scholars tend to use Barrett's statistics as proof of the numerical strength of their specific form of Pentecostalism. Looking at Barrett's latest offering more closely, in which he states that in 2008 there were some 601 million Pentecostals, "Charismatics," and "Neocharismatics" in the world (a figure projected to rise to 798 million by 2025), three distinct forms are included—and the term neo-Charismatics embraces the largest numerically of the three. Although not expressly stated, presumably"Pentecostal"heremeans"classicalPentecostal";"Charismatic,"thosewho practice spiritual gifts in the older Catholic and Protestant denominations (with Catholic Charismatics forming the great majority); and "Neocharismatics," all others, especially the vast number of independent churches—perhaps two-thirds of the total. The mind boggles at the possible permutations.

The study of Pentecostalism is a developing field, and this book attempts to embrace its different methodological and theoretical aspects from a global perspective. In all academic writing, authors have their own agendas and influences that determine the nature of their work. An insider (emic) paradigm makes academic reflection quite different from those outsider (etic) paradigms that might not admit to the influence of divine agency (such as a theological analysis might do). This means that emic observers sometimes refer to testimonies and accounts of healing and miracles at face value, as they were narrated, and sometimes the boundaries between truth, confession, and science are blurred. A researcher must in any case take others' experiences as they are and offer an interpretation. The paradigms we use to do research fundamentally change what and how we write and how we make our definitions. Most so-called Pentecostal theology has been written by insiders and emerges from a paradigm serving a particular interest group, often with denominational and national pressures and intent to preserve a "pure" Pentecostal theology. Although etic observers sometimes make use of these studies, their scholarly orientation is completely different. The emic/etic distinction is basic to understanding this discussion on definitions. For all these and many other reasons, knowing more precisely what we mean by the term Pentecostalism is very important, even if such precision is elusive. Indeed, is a label like "Pentecostalism," which emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century, an altogether appropriate term to use today? It is probably more correct to speak of Pentecostalisms in the contemporary global context, though the singular form will continue to be used here to describe these movements as a whole. Droogers has observed that the task of defining any religious phenomenon is "necessary, explorative and useful" but paradoxically also "superfluous, impossible and ethnocentric." The terms Pentecostal and Pentecostalism refer to a wide variety of movements scattered throughout the world that can be described as having "family resemblance." Wittgenstein argued that family resemblance does not mean that there is something that all have in common but that all have certain similarities and relations with each other. Describing or defining something must allow for "blurred edges," so an imprecise definition can still be meaningful. Defining Pentecostalism may be considered in this way. The term itself is one with shortcomings but despite its inadequacy refers to churches with a family resemblance that emphasize the working of the Holy Spirit.

Definitions depend on which range of criteria one takes. Criteria are always subjective and arbitrary, and differences may not be perceived as significant by the movements on which these criteria are imposed. On the other hand, there is also the possibility of overlooking differences that may be quite important to church members. Emic and etic views always create such differences of viewpoint. The phenomenon of Pentecostalism is, however, much more complex than any neat categorizing will allow. Different scholars in different disciplines have different criteria. If we are to do justice to this global movement, we must include its more recent expressions in the independent, Charismatic, and neo-Charismatic movements. But even more fundamentally, do we actually need definitions, and if so, do they serve any useful function? Whatever we consider for inclusion needs to be completely flexible, so that we make room for the fringes where constantly changing new developments deviate from the "normal." Despite the seeming diversity within global Pentecostalism, the movement does have family resemblances, certain universal features and beliefs throughout its many manifestations, most of which emerged in the early twentieth century. Although this is not at all a homogeneous movement, and acknowledging their very significant differences, the thousands of different denominations and movements could all be described as Pentecostal in character, theology, and ethos. One of the tasks would be to describe and analyze these so-called Pentecostal characteristics and to trace the complex historical developments that led to the emergence of the various global movements that make up contemporary Pentecostalism/s.

Below I discuss four disciplinary criteria for defining Pentecostalism. It will be seen that these are by no means exclusive approaches but are mutually dependent. The first, typological approach attempts to produce a taxonomy of the different types of the Pentecostal family. This takes up the most attention, because all the approaches that follow depend on it in different ways.


No taxonomy of such a wide variety of churches, networks, and movements is a straightforward undertaking. Attempts to classify religious movements and churches into types have sometimes been oversimplistic and have lacked the depth of understanding usually facilitated by empirical research and participant observation. Any attempt at classification therefore can be only preliminary and tentative and should clarify, not confuse, issues. As Martin West pointed out in his 1975 study of independent churches in Soweto, South Africa, any attempt at a taxonomy may become information that is pigeonholed and whose terms of reference are inadequately explained. There is also the possibility that the categorization into different types will emphasize the differences to such an extent that it will go beyond that recognized by church members themselves.

An inclusive definition will allow for diversity in understanding these movements. Using the family resemblance analogy, by combining the "ideal" with the deviations, is the best way to proceed. Walter J. Hollenweger divided Pentecostalism into three types: classical Pentecostals, the Charismatic renewal movement, and Pentecostal or "Pentecostal-like" independent churches. Although there is the danger of reductionism in this threefold classification of global Pentecostalism, it is a useful starting point, to which I will add a fourth type. No working definition answers all the objections or altogether avoids generalizations, but at least parameters acceptable to most scholars can be set. Using a narrower theological definition such as "initial evidence," "speaking in tongues," or even "baptism in the Spirit" (as Pentecostal theologians tend to do) is fraught with difficulties when there are exceptions all over the world. This is even the case with those who can indirectly trace their origins to North America, such as most forms of European classical Pentecostalism. Similarly, a historical definition that depends on established links alone is difficult to maintain in the plethora of mutations of Pentecostalism worldwide. Although we must resist any simple definition in such a diverse movement, a multidisciplinary definition of Pentecostalism might follow that suggested by Robert M. Anderson. His definition does not rely exclusively on theological dogma, cultural characteristics, or historical precedents. Situating Pentecostalism within the broad framework of those movements and churches "concerned primarily with the experience of the working of the Holy Spirit and the practice of spiritual gifts" (this could then be unpacked further) may be a satisfactory way to deal with the problem and lend a family likeness in keeping with the analogy.

Within this broad family resemblance described in terms of an emphasis on the Spirit and spiritual gifts, a taxonomy of global Pentecostalism can be further divided into at least four overlapping types, each with its own family characteristics influenced by historical, theological, and cultural factors. These include the following, each with its own subtypes.

1. Classical Pentecostals are those whose diachronous and synchronous links can be shown, originating in the early-twentieth-century revival and missionary movements. The first decade of the twentieth century was the time when these movements began to emerge, and although it took a few years before they were known by the term Pentecostal, their gradual ostracizing by their holiness and evangelical relatives resulted in new denominations being formed just before and after the Great War. In North America the first major schism in Pentecostalism occurred in 1911, when the Chicago preacher William Durham went to Azusa Street and set up a rival mission after the doors of the revival center were locked against him. At issue was his insistence that the Holiness doctrine of sanctification as a second work of grace was not scriptural; instead he advocated a doctrine of "Finished Work" in which sanctification was a gradual process beginning at conversion. Ultimately this was to result in a schism in American Pentecostalism that exists to this day. Most African American Pentecostals followed Seymour as "Holiness" Pentecostals, whereas the largest group of white Pentecostals, the Assemblies of God, formed in 1914, followed Durham's Finished Work doctrine. For various reasons and in part as a result of missionary activity within this group and those who joined them in the global South, this has become the largest group of classical Pentecostals worldwide. In 1916 another acrimonious division occurred in the Assemblies of God between Trinitarian and "Oneness" or "Jesus Name" Pentecostals (who denied the Trinity while reaffirming the deity of Christ).

Thus classical Pentecostalism can now be divided into four subtypes as follows: (a) Holiness Pentecostals, with roots in the nineteenth-century holiness movement and a belief in a second work of grace called sanctification, followed by the third experience of Spirit baptism, which includes the largest African American denomination in the United States, the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (among others); (b) Baptistic or Finished Work Pentecostals, who differ in their approach to sanctification, seeing it as an outgrowth from conversion, and including the Foursquare Church, the Pentecostal Church of God, and the Assemblies of God; and, stemming from the latter, (c) Oneness Pentecostals, who reject the doctrine of the Trinity and posit a unitarianism that includes the deity of Christ, including the True Jesus Church in China, the United Pentecostal Church, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World; and (d) Apostolic Pentecostals, both Oneness and Trinitarian, who emphasize the authority of present-day "apostles" and "prophets," including some of the older Apostolic Church groups and African independent churches, the Church of Pentecost founded in Ghana, and some newer independent churches. These categories apply mostly to Western-originating Pentecostals, although (d) includes the significant number of West African Apostolic Pentecostal churches influenced by the British Apostolic Church, some of which were founded by Africans. All these four groups have a theology of a subsequent experience of Spirit baptism, usually accompanied by speaking in tongues.

2. Older Independent and Spirit Churches, especially in China, India, and sub-Saharan Africa, that sometimes have diachronous (but usually not synchronous) links with classical Pentecostalism. These churches do not always have a clearly defined theology, nor do they necessarily see themselves as "Pentecostal," but their practices of healing, prayer, and spiritual gifts are decidedly so. Here the True Jesus Church in China could also be appropriately placed, and so could other churches of Pentecostal origin such as the Jesus Family, called Old Three-Self Churches in China. In this country and in India, several independent churches emerged in the 1920s and 1930s influenced by Pentecostal missionaries. The independent churches are referred to in the literature by many different terms, and here I rely on the continent I know best, Africa. In southern Africa there are Zionist and Apostolic groups that were first formed in the 1910s and 1920s with influences from John Alexander Dowie's Zion City near Chicago and Apostolic Faith missionaries in South Africa, resulting in "Zion-type" and "Spirit-type" churches. In central Africa the independent churches include the Kimbanguists, originating in a healing revival movement that was severely repressed by Belgian authorities. In West Africa "spiritual," "prophet healing," and "aladura" (prayer) churches emerged in healing revival movements at the same time, and in East Africa "Pentecostal" and "spiritual" churches came out of various African revivals in this region. Most of these independent churches prefer to be known as "churches of the Spirit." There is abundant historical evidence that many of these churches were influenced by indigenous Pentecostal revival movements in the early stages of their formation, and some were in direct contact with classical Pentecostals. Some observers feel that these churches should be separated from Pentecostal ones because of the relative enormity of this African phenomenon. Others in "classical Pentecostalism" in the West try to distance themselves from churches they pejoratively view as "syncretistic." When looked at from a global perspective, however, this tends to blur the Pentecostal identity of these churches and to obscure common characteristics and historical links. The various terms used to describe these churches also suggest that at least they are inclined to be Pentecostal. Scholars increasingly recognize their Pentecostal character, as do the churches themselves.


Excerpted from Studying Global Pentecostalism by Allan Anderson, Michael Bergunder, André Droogers, Cornelis van der Laan. Copyright © 2010 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations


1. Varieties, Taxonomies, and Definitions
Allan Anderson

2. Essentialist and Normative Approaches
André Droogers

3. The Cultural Turn
Michael Bergunder

4. Gender and Power
Elizabeth Brusco

5. Conversion Narratives
Henri Gooren

6. Pentecostalism and Globalization
Birgit Meyer


7. Psychology of Religion
Stefan Huber and Odilo W. Huber

8. Anthropology of Religion
Joel Robbins

9. Sociology of Religion
Stephen Hunt

10. Historical Approaches
Cornelis van der Laan


11. Pneumatologies in Systematic Theology
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

12. Missiology and the Ícaro|Ícaro|Ícaro|Interreligious Encounter
Amos Yong and Tony Richie

13. Practical Theology
Mark J. Cartledge

14. Ecumenism
Cecil M. Robeck Jr.


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"A welcome and valuable addition to the study of this exciting phenomenon that has significantly reshaped today's Christianity."—Suomen Antropologi: J Finnish Anthro Soc

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