Author, theologian and now blogger, Roger Olson, recently posted an article about the differences between Pentecostals of a generation ago and Pentecostals of today. His major emphasis in the article is the changes that have come to such a group over the past decades. Specifically, he concludes the article with these three paragraphs:
The Pentecostals I’ve been with lately are not the Pentecostals of my youth. Well, at least not all of them. They still adhere to classical Pentecostal doctrines and practices, but it seems to me these have become largely what I earlier called “shelf doctrines.” They are not very different from their more mainline or traditional evangelical counterparts. Yet, I applaud their determination to somehow or other hold onto their distinctive witness about the Holy Spirit. I suspect that IF “this Pentecostalism” had been around when I was in my twenties I could have remained Pentecostal.
These Pentecostals are widely read in biblical and theological studies, immersed in the latest trends in missiology, even leading the way in some areas of theological reflection such as the Holy Spirit and world religions. I am impressed by Amos Yong, perhaps THE leading Pentecostal theologian today.
What does this tell all of us? A lesson I continue to learn is not to rely on religious stereotypes; people rarely live up (or down) to them. Perhaps we should swear off speaking about religious groups and movements until and unless we have spent some quality time among them–what my students call “face time.” It’s one thing to read ABOUT the “other.” It’s another thing to actually READ the “other.” It’s still another thing to actually TALK WITH (not at) the “other.
It is true that Pentecostal-charismatic theology and its adherents have undergone changes over the decades, as have all denominations and movements within Christianity. And this is a good thing as we ever move towards maturity and the unity of the faith (i.e. Eph 4:11-13).
You can read the rest of Olson’s post here.