How frustrating to read of a potentially life-changing book, only to order it, and discover it is out of print. How annoying to rush to the store to purchase the perfect gift and to find it is out of stock. How aggravating to want something and find that it is unavailable. How disturbing to hunt for a part and find it is now obsolete. How equally frustrating, annoying, aggravating, and disturbing it would be to walk down the aisles of the Book of Acts only to find those things we desire: divine empowerment, miracles, healing, and things pertaining to the supernatural are no longer available, out of stock, and meant only for the first century church. Regretfully, that is exactly what some believe happened, or should happen, when thinking that the baptism of the Spirit, evidenced by speaking in other tongues, stopped at worst on the Day of Pentecost, or at best at the end of the Book of Acts; having a brief life span of some thirty years.
Steven Ger shares his reflections:
The book of Acts grants readers a unique and fascinating glimpse into the world of the early church. We peer through the corridors…and see the still vivid foundations of our own faith….Acts shows us the road we believers have traveled to arrive at our present state….It is story—a simple story about regular human beings who are just like us. They share our same hopes and similar fears, our worst biases and best qualities. In fact, Acts is, essentially, our story. It is your legacy and mine. It is the record of our brothers and sisters who came before us, blazing a revolutionary, messianic trail from Jerusalem to ‘the ends of the earth.’ (Ger, 2004, 1).
Unfortunately, Ger eventually and sadly, comes up short, believing Pentecost was unique, unrepeatable, and possesses no timeless truth or doctrine. How perplexing. How confusing.
Even questions arise within the Pentecostal ranks, but are often swept under the proverbial carpet, silenced, or excused away as a lack of love for truth, and drifting from the old paths. Not all questions indicate moving away from what is right. What is left could be a sincere desire to understand; the ability to intelligently, logically, and persuasively explain beliefs to others. Rather than forcing such questioners into corners—causing them to be hesitant in asking, afraid of being misunderstood—one would do well to create an environment of learning; freedom to ask, freedom to explore, freedom to experience, freedom to discover, and a freedom to learn.
F. L. Arrington said:
The interplay of Scripture, experience, Pentecostal tradition, and reason under the direction of the Spirit have strong implications for a Pentecostal approach to hermeneutics. Out of the Pentecostal reality and dimension of life in the Spirit emerges a uniquely Pentecostal approach to hermeneutics. (172)
Experience and history reveals that tongues did not cease with the Apostolic Age, and have not disappeared during the Church Age (the entire period between Christ’s first and second coming). Church historian, Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. revealed, “Speaking in tongues has always been in the Church, although with varied levels of expression and acceptance” (874). It would be difficult to convince over five hundred million Pentecostals and Charismatic’s worldwide their experience is invalid and ceased a couple thousand years ago. They represent the second largest ecclesiastical body in the world, second only to the Roman Catholics. Not bad for a group that recently celebrated a century of existence. Many are receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit daily. Each evidenced by speaking in tongues. Each persuaded their experience is biblically based. F. J. May (1990) tells of an old-timer that said, “You are wasting your breath trying to tell a man he can’t have what he has already got” (84).
Whereas experience can never be the basis of theology, experience is the contemporizing of history. Thus, the understanding of the Bible generally, and Luke-Acts, particularly, involves a hermeneutic cycle. In this cycle the record of the experience of the divine by God’s people in the past addresses the experience of God’s people in the present, and the present experience of the divine informs the understanding of the past. In this way the divine word as a historical document becomes a living Word—a Word, which, like God himself, is, was, and is to come. (Stronstad 1995, 64)
This is referred to as an experience-certified theology. Every interpreter brings to the text, a cognitive and practical presumption. Pentecostal hermeneutics should be holistic; combining experience, the Spirit, genre, and incorporate traditional, and rational forms of interpretation. Unfortunately, non-Pentecostals lack the premise of experience, and the ability to verify it.
Excellent, informative post.