49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The Pentecostal/Charismatic phenomenon has turned out to be the most influential, far-reaching movement in Christianity in the 20th century. What once was considered a backwoods, wrong-side-of-the-tracks brand of religion has thrust itself into the mainstream, touching every Christian tradition from Roman Catholicism to mainline Protestantism to Orthodoxy, and everything in between. This book chronicles the rise of Pentecostalism, from its foundations in the late 19th-century holiness churches, through the Azusa Street revival, the formation of Pentecostal denominations, the unfortunate split between African-Americans and white Pentecostals, the postwar popularity of traveling healing evangelists, the permutation of Pentecostalism into the neo-Pentecostal or Charismatic movement as the Holy Spirit entered mainline churches, the explosion of TV evangelism, to the end of the 20th century where Pentecostalism is a true worldwide phenomenon. This is anything but a dry historical document; it seems as alive and vibrant in many places as the movement it covers. It deals with theological issues such as the controversy among the "second-blessing" and "third-blessing" advocates, the even more controversial "Oneness" doctrine, and other beliefs that both characterized and often divided Pentecostalism. Another controversy the book addresses is the Shepherding or Discipleship movement. Also controversial is the prosperity gospel of today's TV evangelists, although the book fails to acknowledge that it is, indeed, controversial (as fair and even-handed as this book is, I don't really expect them to say the health-and-wealth message is heretical, even though, in my opinion, it is).
One criticism I have of this book is that is gives very scant, almost non-existant coverage of significant movements such as the Vineyard. Even though there is more emphasis on healing, prophecy, and words of knowledge than there is on speaking in tongues, and Vineyard leaders eschew the Charismatic label, they still belong firmly in the Charismatic movement. Founder John Wimber is mentioned a few times in passing, but as influential as the Vineyard has, I think a little historical coverage there is in order, including Wimber's "Signs and Wonders" course at Fuller Theological Seminary, which had great impact on many. Totally ignored is the modern apostolic/prophetic stream led by such figures as Rick Joyner, Francis Frangipane, and Paul Cain. The popularity of the contemporary "praise and worship" music can also be traced directly to the Charismatic movement, as this is one phenomenon that has spread even to non-Charismatic churches, yet that also gets barely a mention. This lack of comprehensiveness blunted my enthusiasm for this book.
I owe a lot to the Charismatic movement, and the Pentecostal movement that spawned it. If not for the filling of the Holy Spirit in my own life, I doubt that I would be as fervent a Christian today. It is strange that, as theologically correct as I attempt to be, this movement that influenced me so much is based on what I regard as a doctrinal fallacy, namely that tongues is always the "evidence" of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. As much as I've tried to distance myself from the Charismatic movement in the past year or so because of some of the excesses and bad theology, I still have to admit that I am Charismatic to the core and always will be. That's one reason I found this book so interesting. It's part of my "roots", so to speak, and even if everyone doesn't share my experience, I still think that modern-day believers of every stripe will find this book quite enlightening.