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"Growing up in a Pentecostal church was a marvelous, and intriguing, experience," writes Gordon D. Fee in his new book "Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God" (Hendrickson). The "experiential nature" of Pentecostalism attracted many individuals who would otherwise have been "marginalized, both in society at large and in the mainline churches," he says. "There was 'ow-ooo Ferris,' a dear brother, who when he got 'blessed' yelled 'ow-ooo' while sort of dancing in place and out into the aisle. . . . And then there was the brother who stood up to prophesy some crazy thing, and started, typically, 'Thus saith the Lord.' When his 'prophecy' was weighed and found 'wanting,' it was gently suggested that perhaps it was not the Lord who had spoken after all. He jumped to his feet again. 'Thus saith the Lord!' he shouted, 'that was too me!' "

Such people, says Fee, "added spice" to the worship environment. Spice, however, is not necessarily what churches are looking for in gathered worship. Harvard divinity professor Harvey Cox wrote in a recent article in the "Atlantic Monthly" (Nov. 1995) that evangelicals who "take their Calvin straight" become skittish at the "sometimes chaotic and unpredictable spirituality of Pentecostals" and that, conversely, some Pentecostals and charismatics bridle at being identified with "cold, rigid, and insufficiently spontaneous" forms of evangelicalism.

This theological tug-of-war has broken out most recently with the brouhaha associated with the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. This surprising "revival" has reinvigorated the discussion of how the Holy Spirit visits us. Does he roar? Does he bark? John Wimber--no dissuader of the miraculous--says no, and he dissociated the Toronto church from the ...

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In the Magazine

June 17, 1996

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