Roger Stronstad. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. (1984) Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. (

If you have ever had an idea in your mind that lacked the necessary vocabulary needed to explain it you will know how I have felt as I wrestled with the relationship between Pauline and Lukan Pneumatologies. Those who have tried to understand how to the Epistle of James can disagree so strongly with the Pauline doctrine of “justification by faith” while still retaining a sense of compatibility know exactly what I mean. You know there are differences but you are convinced that accepting a contradiction is too simple.

Likewise, if you have ever had someone provide you with the words you needed to explain yourself you will know how I am feeling after reading Roger Stronstad’s The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. I have not been willing to accept the stronger language of the initial evidence doctrine amongst classic Pentecostals because it seems too narrow. Likewise, I have not been willing to accept the narrative v. didactic paradigm because I don’t think that is how language works (i.e. I don’t think the author of Luke-Acts wanted to convey so-called “objective history” where he is merely recounting events without any “teaching” purposes). Finally, I outright reject the argument of cessationist on both exegetical grounds as well as my own experiences.

So how do we move forward? How do we retain the Lukan emphasis that the Spirit is to be accompanied by signs and wonders when someone is “filled” or the Spirit is “poured out” (and other similar descriptions) without denying the Pauline emphasis that it is the Spirit that comes by faith and some may say is the source of faith? I think Stronstad’s work at least provides a good starting point though it by no means should serve as the final word.

Stronstad shows the Old Testament Pneumatological trajectory that included various people being filled and empowered by the Spirit. Some samples may include Moses, the elders, some of the judges, the annointed kings, and especially various prophets. While Pauline Pneumatology includes this trajectory (see 1 Cor. 12-14) it is broader and it is more focused on a second trajectory which we see when we read that the Spirit is the life-force that keeps humans alive and that will resurrect humans in the age to come (cf. Gen 2, 6; Ps. 104; Ez. 37; Rom. 8; 1 Cor 15). Lukan Pneumatology includes this concept (the whole narrative of the Book of Acts is grounded in the resurrected Christ being the one who upon his ascension pours out the Spirit at Pentecost) but it is primarily focused on the “democratization” (my term) of the manifest power of the Spirit.

One important element of this book is that is shows the Lukan understanding of the Spirit isn’t suddenly thrust upon us at Pentecost. In the first volume we see people like John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Zecharias, and even Jesus “filled” and empowered by the Spirit. Whatever the Lukan understanding of Pentecost includes it does not seem to be saying this is something completely new. Rather, like Moses at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy imparted the Spirit in which he had led Israel to the elders who were to assume this task so Jesus imparts the charismatic Holy Spirit upon his disciples whose task is to continue “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1.1).

So how do we move forward? How do we reconcile Pentecostal sensibilities with evangelical unity? How do we let Luke-Acts inform our Spirit-language without choosing it over Pauline language and visa-versa? Stronstad argues that we must let Luke-Acts have its own voice and it must be read on its own terms. This means avoiding a reading where we define everything Lukan through a Pauline lens. I agree with this assessment and I think it is a good starting point for us Pentecostal types who want to retain a place in the evangelical conversation without creating our own charismatic ghetto.

See also: Scott Lencke’s review.