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Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, And Evangelicals (Rev 2)

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Christians form their theology from what they read and study in the Bible. The Bible has over forty authors and was written over many years, each writer was inspired by the Holy Spirit but used his own vocabulary, personality, and mannerisms. Each writer and each book is flavored with the culture from which they lived. There are many different styles and literary expressions used in the Bible.

The Bible contains various types of literary genres such as: historical narrative, legal code, poetry, wisdom literature, apocalyptic, gospel, epistle, etc. (Arrington 1988, 377). Each of these genres has its own set of rules for interpretation. Along with the different types of genres, there are two basic modes of literary communication: 1) poetry; and 2) prose. Poetry is the mode often used by songwriters and lovers to express emotion, whereas prose is often the discourse of choice for those written acts of communication whose predominant aim is to inform (Longman 1993, 69).

The Pentecostal doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is mainly derived from the book of Acts which is written as prose and falls into the genre of historical narrative. Narrative tells a story; its events are related to one another by an explicit or implicit cause-and-effect structure (Longman 1993, 70). The principles, rules, and methods for the interpretation of literary text are called hermeneutics (Arrington 1988, 377). Stronstad points out in regard to historical narrative, that there is a science and an art to the hermeneutics of this literary genre (Stronstad 1995, 38).

There is a debate in current scholarship in regard to how the rules of hermeneutics apply to the book of Acts and the validity of the Pentecostal position of the baptism in the Holy Spirit that is formed from this historical narrative. In this work I am going to summarize the two main positions, discuss the relevance of this debate to the Pentecostal doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I will share my position in this debate, and then discuss the role of experience in the interpretation of these events recorded in the book of Acts.

The Two Main Positions

Stronstad frames the debate over the hermeneutics states about this current debate:

Those who spar academically over the use or abuse of the narrative of Acts for Pentecostal theology sit in one of two corners. The Pentecostals, with their pragmatic hermeneutic are in one corner; their opponents, who advocate scientific methodology, are in the other corner (Stronstad 1995, 37).

These two main positions of this debate that are presented in the course reading material are presented by Gordon Fee and Roger Stronstad as: 1) For a biblical precedent to justify a present action, the principle of the action must be taught elsewhere, where it is the primary intent so to teach (Fee and Stuart 1982, 101); and 2) There is a biblical precedent for using historical narrative for didactic purposes, therefore it can be legitimate to use historical narrative as a basis for normative practice (Stronstad 1995, 38).

Gordon Fee states that "unless Scripture explicitly tells us we must do something, what is merely narrated or described can never function in a normative way" (Fee 1982, 97). Fee goes on to say, "The Word of God in Acts that may be regarded as normative for Christians is related primarily to what any given narrative was intended to teach . . . Historical precedent, to have normative value, must be related to intent" (1982, 99). Also "If it can be demonstrated that Luke's intent in Acts was to lay down a pattern for the church for all times, then that pattern surely becomes normative (Fee 1982, 89). In regard to historical precedent Fee says, "The use of historical precedent and an analogy by which to establish a norm is never valid in itself. Such a process (drawing universal norms from particular events) produces a non sequitur and is therefore irrelevant" (Fee 1991, 94). To Fee, just because something is recorded in the Bible as and actual historical event, it does not legitimately give the expectation of that event becoming a norm or a standard for future behavior.

Roger Stronstad argues that Luke was a theologian and his point for writing was to teach coming generations about what Christianity was supposed to be, therefore it is legitimate to use Luke's narrative to establish the experiences of the early church as normative for future generations. He criticizes his opponents for "alleging an unbiblical dichotomy between the so-called descriptive and didactic passages of Scripture" (Stronstad 1984, 6). Stronstad claims that "there is in fact a biblical precedent for historical precedent" (Stronstad 1993, 5). He quotes the New Testament Apostle Paul: 1) "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom 15:4 NIV); 2) In regard to the experience of Israel in the wilderness Paul says "these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come" (1 Cor 10:11 NIV), the version Stronstad quoted (1984, 7) used the words " for our instruction" instead of "as warnings"; and 3) "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Stronstad is using Scripture to argue his point rather and a hermeneutic system. These passages he quoted aptly make the point he is trying to argue.

The Relevance of the Debate

The heart of the relevance issue in this debate is the picking and choosing which historical events should be regarded as normative. It should be acknowledged that there is difficulty with historical precedent being interpreted as teaching or establishing norms. It can get confusing and difficult to sort out such as: 1) Acts 1:26, they prayed about who was to replace Judas and "Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles (NIV); and 2) Acts 4:32 "All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they shared everything they had" (NIV). The relevance to the debate here is this: if historical precedent is set by things that were done, then are we prepared to roll the dice to select our leaders and share everything we with own with everyone?

This debate is relevant to all Christians, because it affects what should be normative in all churches. All groups believe that they are serving God in the most accurate biblical fashion. The relevance of this debate is foremost to the Pentecostal theologian. This debate can either prove the theology of the Pentecostals to be true, or it can render the theology of Pentecostals a heresy that is founded on poor hermeneutical practices. In fact, until the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942, Evangelicals thought Pentecostals should be classified as a cult (Menzies 2000, 29). At the least, many denominations would need to re-write their statements of belief and stop asking people to leave for experiencing the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. This debate is often framed as a "somebody has to be wrong" debate. The Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals all have an interest in this debate because it affects what should be normative in all churches.

The issue of "subsequence" becomes relevant also at this point. The term subsequence in regard to the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to the receiving of the baptism as an event that happens after a person receives the Lord Jesus as their savior. The subsequence doctrine comes from the Assemblies of God fundamental truth number seven (Fee 1991, 84). According to the Fundamentalists and the Evangelicals, this baptism happens at the time of salvation; it is not a distinct and subsequent event. But if the precedent was set with Cornelius and his group who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at the same time they received Jesus as their savior, this could backfire on the Pentecostal and better prove the Fundamentalist / Evangelical position.

There is an assumption made by the Assemblies of God in fundamental truth eight (Fee 1991, 84) regarding speaking in tongues being the initial evidence of receiving the baptism. The assumption is that in all five passages speaking in tongues was the initial evidence, when in fact only three passages state that was the case. This is relevant to the debate because good exegetical and hermeneutical practices does not allow us to make assumptions about what Scripture does not say.

To summarize, the relevance of this debate of historical precedence regarding these passages in the book of Acts is important because many churches would have to rethink their program. Fundamentalists generally believe that speaking in tongues, prophesy, healing and many other works of the Holy Spirit stopped when the apostles died out. Evangelicals believe these gifts can still continue to operate today, but that they do not always. Pentecostals expect the church to function as it did in the first century and like the book of Acts states. This debate is relevant because of the three different positions. The result is disunity among brothers.

My Position

Stronstad argued compellingly that Luke's pattern of writing was that of the Old Testament writers, and that Paul used the Old Testament narratives with didactic purpose:

If for Paul the historical narratives of the Old Testament had didactic lessons for New Testament Christians, then is would be most surprising if Luke, who modeled his historiography after the Old Testament historiography, did not invest his own history of the origin and spread of Christianity with a didactic significance (Stronstad 1984, 7).

Giving strength to Stronstad's argument is the often repeated claim amongst Christians that the Bible interprets itself; biblical theology studies and Scriptural surveys do work this way. This is demonstrated by the common practice of using clearer portions of the Bible to interpret more difficult passages in the Bible.

I agree that Luke surveyed and arranged his material to teach "Theophilus". Of course the debate continues on whether Theophilus is a person or a body of people, regardless, Luke makes a statement in chapter 1:3-4 that exposes his intent:

Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke's intent seems very clear there. I point out also that Fee said if the intent of Luke could be determined to teach a normative paradigm, then he would support that interpretation (Fee 1982, 89).

The reservations I have in regard to Stronstad's position, is the potential for abuse of the use of historical precedent. I understand that with anything comes the potential for abuse, but there is some inequity right from the start, such as the passages about women being silent in church (1 Tim 2:11), women not holding leadership positions (1 Tim 2:12), and haircut rules for men (1 Cor 11:14). I think we must tread lightly and carefully in these areas.

My position in this debate is with Gordon Fee. I feel that it is easy for everyone to claim that they know what the the author's intent was. I think it is foolishness to attempt to speak from authority about what Luke's intent was in regard to everything he wrote. Fee's position is much humbler and safer in my opinion, and though Stronstad makes a good argument for the points that he is arguing, the snake handlers use the same theory for justifying their theology. Therefore, I think that the historical precedent can give us a range of what has resulted in the past, but that we should seek the clear teaching portions of Scripture to form our doctrines.

The Role of Contemporary Experience

If one experiences the Spirit baptism as it is described in the book of Acts, then one would find support biblically for that experience. These portions of Scripture would resonate as true and would be confirmation that the person who experienced it was living out a biblical Christianity. Fee commented on this:

It is probably fair to note-and important- to note that in general the Pentecostal experience has preceded their hermeneutics. In a sense, the Pentecostal tends to exegete his or her experience (Fee 1991, 86).

This whole debate is about Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals all doing just that. The Fundamentalist and the Evangelical will deny the Pentecostal has any better understanding about the Scriptures that deal with Spirit baptism because of his experience, but will argue that their understanding of Scripture is superior to someone who has not received Christ because of their own born again experience. The Fundamentalists and the Evangelicals claim that the Pentecostals are exegeting their experience rather than Scripture in regard to the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit being speaking in tongues. I would also argue that those who have not experienced this subsequent baptism accompanied by speaking in tongues use that to confirm and inform their exegesis.

My position is that this debate which is relevant and important to all three groups of Christians will not be argued exegetically or hermeneutically; the experience of the person will determine which camp they fit in, and that will determine their hermeneutic.


The methods and rules in hermeneutics give us a good structure and foundation from which to interpret the Bible, and this is necessary to in order to navigate the numerous styles and genres that are contained in the Bible. However, there are still going to be differences in opinion in regarding the art behind the application of the science. Luke definitely wrote to instruct, but as it is seen in this debate, there is disagreement in regard to the extent to take that to mean.

The only firm foundation in regard to Christian doctrine is what is explicitly taught by the writers of the Bible. The history is helpful for us today to see the effect of that teaching and what kind of personal and social changes that it caused. To observe an effect and then claim that this is what should always be the effect or normative practice is like the tail wagging the dog.

I believe it is fair to assume that the experience of the person or group of people is going chart course for the hermeneutic that the person or group embraces. The best that can be hoped for is that we would all read more, study more, and draw closer to the Lord as we know and understand Him.



Arrington, French L. 1988. "Hermeneutics, Historical Perspectives On Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements." In The Dictionary od Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 376-389. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Fee, Gordon D. 1991. Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. 1982. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Longman, Tremper, III. 1993. "Biblical Narrative." In A Complete Guide to the Bible, 69-78. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Menzies, William W. and Robert P. 2000. Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Stronstad, Roger. 1984. The Charsimatic Theology of Luke. Peabody: Hendrickson.

. 1993. The Biblical Precedent for Historical Precedent. In Paraclete. Volume 27, Number 3:1-10.

. 1995. Spirit, Scripture, & Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective. Baguio City: APTS.

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Having read and re-read (first time was really a skimming) both versions I am going to make a few observations. These observations are just that .... observations. Of course my observations will be colored by church teachings, my experiences and my understanding of scripture.

My first observation is that there is no discussion of the two types of "speaking in tongues" described by people who have experienced them. The first being that described in Acts 2:6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. which is generally understood to mean that the Apostles spoke in languages that they did not know how to speak. This type of "speaking in tongues" is known as xenoglossy. Although it does still happen it is not common (in my experience). There is another type of speaking in tongues known as glossolalia. Glossolalia is understood to be a sacred language known to God which is spoken when we are unable to express those things which we need to pray for as expressed in Romans 8:26-27 26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. This type of "speaking in tongues" is much more common (again, in my experience).

I have never experienced xenoglossy so I cannot speak from experience on the subject. I have been in church services where it has happened and the person who actually understood what was being said received that message as being meant for them personally. I have also been in services where one person "spoke in tongues" and another person "gave interpretation" of what was said. This was understood to be a message for the church often (but not always) giving a prophesy.

I, myself, experience the glossolalia often. Most often when I am deep in prayer the Holy Spirit takes over. I continue to speak but the words are no longer my own. These words have a rhythm and cadence similar to any other language, with pauses and stops. Sometimes these occasions are short and after they are over my spirit has a feeling of relief or satisfaction. Other times I may continue "speaking in tongues" (praying in an unknown language) for a considerable amount of time. Often, in these longer sessions, I will come out with revelation of a previously misunderstood bit of scripture or, on rare occasions, a revelation of something God has in my future. This type of "speaking in tongues" should never interrupt a service.

Your introduction in Rev 2 is, IMHO, the better of the two introductions. To me, it gives a clearer description of what you intend to discuss, although I find the second paragraph to simply be filling space.

In Rev 1 you have a section (The Doctrine at the Center of the Debate) which has no counter in Rev 2. To me, this section seems to explain one particular Pentecostal groups views to the exclusion of other Pentecostal groups. While the church I grew up in has statements similar to those expressed in this section (It believes in receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit subsequent to "a clean heart". It believes that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of baptism with the Holy Spirit.) your section seems to give the impression that these are unique to the Assemblies of God churches.

About the Two Main Positions sections; although both seem to be well written I think I prefer the Rev 1 version. To me it seems to give a little more information on why the two men hold their different positions.

In the "Relevance of the Debate" sections, paragraph 1 of Rev 1 and paragraph 2 of Rev 2 state that the debate is often framed as someone has to be wrong. While that may be the position of many it is important to note that some churches (like the one I grew up in) teach "Exclusivity" has never been an official church teaching. However, some ministers have subscribed to such teachings, and still hold them today, separate from the church's official stance on the subject." Again I have to say that both versions are well written. I think my likes would lean towards Rev 1 a little more but I can't quite decide exactly why.

Now we come to the sections that lead me to a bit of confusion. In the "My Position" sections you claim to agree with both positions. Rev 1 first paragraph.

My position in this debate is that of Roger Stronstad.

Rev 2 last paragraph.

My position in this debate is with Gordon Fee.

Now I'm certainly not going to attempt to tell you which position to take but I think whichever position you take you should do so consistently. I would site James 1:8 King James Version (KJV)

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

On the "The Role of Contemporary Experience" sections; I would go with Rev 2 simply because it excludes the phrase "The amusing thing is". otherwise they seem identical.

Finally, while I think I like the "Conclusion" in Rev 2 I think you should also incorporate the line from Rev 1 "To experience this blessing results in the desire for everyone to get to experience it, and therefore clouding the lenses of objectivity, and if it was never experienced it would be deemed unnecessary."

Again I want to emphasize these are my observations and opinions and are not meant to be anything other than that.

Edited by Pastor Dave

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Now we come to the sections that lead me to a bit of confusion. In the "My Position" sections you claim to agree with both positions. Rev 1 first paragraph.

Rev 2 last paragraph.

Now I'm certainly not going to attempt to tell you which position to take but I think whichever position you take you should do so consistently. I would site James 1:8 King James Version (KJV)

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Yes, noted. As it turned out, my position changed when I revised the paper. I suppose the issue is that i had always agreed with Fee in his break down of genres and interpretation rules. My position leaned towards the idea that Acts is a history book and that theology should be be sought in works of history, but rather in theological writings. This makes sense and I always followed that rule.

So in my revision, I was more impacted by Stronstad's use of Paul's comments in regard to the use Scripture as being an "example" for us, Paul himself seems to agree that history can be used to determine what should be normative in practice. Plus, Fee himself with the historical genre rule also said that if the writer of the historical work "intends to teach" with his work, you must then allow for that authorial intent. As I reread Luke chapter one, it seemed to be hard to ignore that Luke's stated reason for writing was so that Theophilus would know with certainty about the things that he was taught. That changed my opinion, which I suppose is point of doing research.

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I do not believe people speak in tongues (real languages). What does it serve if non understand anyway. How do we know an interpretor actually knows what it says and not speaking about their view on things.

I am not hot on Paul as people know but he had things to say on this topic..

1 Cor 14

8 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

1 Cor 4-19-20

19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Paul does not seem to place much value upon tongues unless it helps another to understand. In most services I do not see it plays much more of a role than a performance that no one actually understands. Sorry but I do not see it and think unless a person is understood it does more harm then good.

Edited by Pete

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hello everyone.

my thoughts on speaking in tongues are simple.

speaking in the tongues of the angels is for self edification.

it allows you to stay in tuned with the spirit of the lord jesus christ which is in you. should we not fead the spirit with spiritual things, it will starve just as if you left an infant with no food he or she would starve. why? because you didn't fead him or her.

now the same can be said for the spirit. the spirit needs spiritual food thus if you don't fead the spirit with spiritual material it will starve and you'll begin to go back to your ways of sin.

what does it profit a man to gain the world yet, lose his soul.

think on that.

also, i hear talk of the tongues have stopped.

please read acts 2:39.

also, you might want to see my site.

god bless you

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Hi Timothy and welcome to the forum.

Not convinced by acts myself. I would not consider it food. But if you do then good for you.

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Hello Brother Timothy,

I agree that speaking in an unknown tongue is for self edification as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. Now it is true that the overall point Paul is making in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 is that he feels that Prophesy is a more desirable gift than speaking in tongues. Paul does not say however that we shouldn't speak in tongues as is evidenced in verse 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Paul says clearly not to forbid others to speak in tongues. Paul tells us that unless there is interpretation that this gift of the spirit should not interrupt a service in verse 5 I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. and again in verse 19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. None the less, Paul tells us in verse 2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. To me, it seems clear that, when I pray in the spirit (pray in tongues) my spirit is speaking to God. So, unless I or another has an interpretation this is not for other men and should not interrupt a church service.

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I think we seem to have two debates on the same topic, but just to keep everyone happy

. ichi bott hulan kromaah butini solanme. Roamararaah slimarrrg tobagaoran hookuk.. Pitawi Pitawi

every feels something spiritual now.

Mmm! I guess not.

On then to Dan at:-

Edited by Pete

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