Full Gospel's Fractured Thinking
Rick M. Nañez is author of Full Gospel, Fractured Minds? and is a missionary to Ecuador. An Assemblies of God minister for 20 years, Nañez has pastored several ethnic churches as well as traveled around the world teaching about the importance of the life of the mind. CT e-mailed Nañez at his home in Ecuador.
How anti-intellectual is Pentecostalism today?
This is a difficult question to answer. Though we are not as blatantly anti-intellectual as we used to be, we may be in greater danger than before, because today it's more subtle and therefore we're not as aware of it. Let me put it this way. After 22 years in the movement, I'm convinced that the problem is so serious that if we don't arrest this tendency at this juncture in our history, in the decades to follow, we might very well witness a global Christianity that is anti-intellectual. And, if the movement continues to grow as it has, this, in turn, could affect multiple levels of many cultures.
Is such anti-intellectualism simply to be expected when you put an emphasis on the Holy Spirit's ability to work through anyone, trained or not?
No. I really don't think that there's any fundamental discrepancy between the Spirit of God and the intellect of man. I don't think that anyone would argue against the fact that Jesus himself put more emphasis on the Holy Spirit's involvement in life and ministry than any other person in history. Yet this is the same one of whom it's said, in him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." So, in the person of Christ, we see the perfect balance of intellect and Spirit.
We all know that the Holy Spirit can work or speak through anyone, educated or noteven a donkey! But believing this doesn't seem to keep us from sending our kids to 12 years of school to get knowledge. Nor does it sooth our intellectual curiosity when we're searching the wall in the doctor's office to make sure he has some type of professional training. He may be full of the Holy Spirit, but we want to know that he has some "ole fashion learnin'" too.
Pentecostals, for the most part, are not prejudiced at all against medical knowledge, even though we believe that God can heal by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet we seem to be prejudiced against the value of the intellect in light of believing that the same Spirit can help us with doing his work and will. This is a grave contradiction. When we assume that anti-intellectualism naturally comes with emphasis on the Spirit, we contradict ourselves by living and thinking otherwise in a hundred other areas of life.
How can anti-intellectualism be so bad when the Pentecostal movement has grown so rapidly? Obviously God has blessed it.
That's like asking, "How can smoking be bad for you, I know of a guy that smoked from the age of 10 and lived to be 95?" Or, like saying, "The Mormons and Muslims must be doing something right, just look at their numbers!" Personally, I do believe that God has blessed the Pentecostal/charismatic movement numerically due to their willingness to invite the third person of the Trinity into their faith-walk and to trust radically in God's desire to demonstrate his presence and help.
However, it's false logic to argue that everything in a person's, organization's, or movement's makeup is beneficial and acceptable just because of their success. I am a very imperfect person with errors in my thought, feelings, and actions. My past affects me and my emotions mess me around, not to mention that I live in a decaying, weak earth-suit. Still, God seems to be using me nevertheless. But the fact that God is blessing me as I stumble forward doesn't mean that he condones my faults, failures, and sins.