Roger Stronstad. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. (1984) Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. (Amazon.com)
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.
Great book review Brian! Makes me want to go out and get the book like yesterday. Luke and Paul are my favourite NT writers, and like you I’ve struggled with their seemingly contradictory ramifications when it comes to understanding how the holy Spirit interacts with believers. Although I didn’t go to seminary so I had to look up the word pneumatology (but not until I’d finished reading since context was sufficient for me to deduce). Anyway, this is why I love this blog, I always leave smarter than I came! 🙂
Insightful Brian, and encouraging… thanks for the review! As someone who studied under Roger Stronstad and is a close personal friend, I also want to speak to his character. Roger is a Christian of the utmost integrity and a man of prayer. He is extremely well read on many fronts apart from theological studies, from archaeology to auto mechanics to photography to nature to his love of English literature and detective novels. For many years Roger served as editor of the Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal, and his collection of Lewis first-editions (some of them signed) is beyond impressive. Roger has taught at the same undergraduate Bible college for the past 36 years and continues to be greatly loved and respected by faculty, staff and students. His wife Laurel is a wonderful woman of God who has struggled for most of their married life with chronic illness. To his credit, Roger has been by her side every step of the way, at times having forgone academic advancement and the lure of more distinguished and lucrative tenures in order to care for her needs and to remain part of a close-knit and loving Christian community. To be sure, Roger breaks the stereotype of what many define as being “Pentecostal”… he is quiet, cerebral, and doesn’t even sing (not because he doesn’t like to sing, but because the people around him may not appreciate it as much as he does!). Believe me, there was a time in my life when I needed a quiet, cerebral, coffee-sipping-during-worship Pentecostal, and the Lord blessed me with Roger Stronstad, from his introductory class on Luke-Acts, to advanced Greek and Pneumatology seminars, to marriage mentoring, to hearing from God the day I was going to quit the ministry and phoning me out of the blue to encourage me with words from heaven that have kept me going as a pastor for 14 years and counting. And so, while my reply to your post has been somewhat wordy, I thought you would appreciate knowing a bit more about the man behind the book you are recommending. And as you Americans inch up towards Thanksgiving, thank you again for reminding me of the many blessings for which I am indeed thankful!
You’ll be happy to know that Roger has updated and expanded (but not revised, he’s quick to point out) his book. The best just got better.
For Brian, and anyone else who has read or is interested in Stronstad’s “The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke” he did put out a second edition with Baker Academic, of which I did a three part review of here: http://crisdonlon.wordpress.com/book-reviews/
The first two parts are all about what is different in the second edition.
Thanks for the update Cris!
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