Pentecostal or (p)entecostal?

“Pentecostalism is above all else a missionary movement— this premise enables us to understand the primary motivation for its global expansion throughout the twentieth century. Global Pentecostalism began as a restorationist or revitalization movement among radical evangelicals who were expecting a worldwide, Holy Spirit revival before the imminent coming of Christ… the fundamental conviction of pentecostals is that the power they receive through the Spirit is to evangelize all nations and so glorify Jesus Christ… “Pentecostalism” includes all those movements and churches where the emphasis is on an ecstatic experience of the Spirit and a tangible practice of spiritual gifts. The experience of the Spirit may or may not include speaking in tongues as “initial evidence” of baptism in the Spirit, which for many classical pentecostals is an essential characteristic… In particular, distinctive spiritual gifts include those that are more unusual in the Christian church: prophecy, healing, exorcism, speaking in tongues, and revelations through dreams and visions. This, for me, is what Pentecostalism is all about. Using a narrower theological definition (as some classical pentecostals do) like “initial evidence ,” “speaking in tongues,” or even “baptism in the Spirit” is fraught with difficulties because there are numerous exceptions worldwide. This is even the case with those who can partially and indirectly trace their origins to the United States, such as most forms of European classical Pentecostalism.”

– Allan H. Anderson, To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity, p.2.

In another post Dr. Anderson goes into much greater depth about what Pentecostalism is. Ever since I first encountered his work a couple of years ago I am more comfortable with identifying as a Pentecostal. My initial hesitation with label was that I did not hold to  classical Pentecostal theology. What Dr. Anderson demonstrated was that Pentecostalism has always been historically variegated so it can accommodate someone like myself whose beliefs are very similar even though I do not accept the classical Pentecostal understanding of baptism by the Spirit. This particular post was inspired by another post I read recently by Luke Geraty which you can read here. What I learned from that post, even though I was already familiar with the scholarly definition provided by Anderson and others and I have already been using that label, is a change in grammar. From now on I consider myself “pentecostal” with a small “p”, quite similar to how I have been describing myself as “charismatic” with a small “c.” I identify as pentecostal and charismatic because of the type of theology I hold and not because of a commitment to a particular denomination.

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