A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Reviews (8) Awakening

Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century.  Addison-Wesley, 1995.

Famous for his book, The Secular City (SCM 1965), in which he wrote about the ‘postreligious’ age, theologian Harvey Cox has concluded that ‘Today it is secularity, not spirituality, that may be headed for extinction.’   He invites a generation of Christian leaders schooled in ‘postreligious’ thinking to rethink in the light of Pentecostalism.

A new era has dawned.  Cox is global in his scope, insightful in his diagnosis, generous in his evaluation.  He writes about Pentcostalism as a sympathetic onlooker, noting its enormous and increasing impact on Christianity, and on the reshaping of religion including the church.

The book will be read widely by non-Pentecostal leaders and theologians.  Here is a leading contemporary theologian, whose writing has impacted theological education for three decades, now exploring the significance of this global phenomena.

Part I gives an overview of Pentecostalism.  Part II has chapters on primal speech, signs and wonders, ‘the future present’, women, and music.  Part III surveys the enormous impact of Pentecostalism around the world and concludes with an evaluation called ‘the Liberating Spirit’.

Old stereotypes crumble in Cox’s investigation.  Pentecostal congregations include ‘medical secretaries, computer programmers, insurance salesmen, graduate students in microbiology, and actors and police officers, as well as people who were out of work and down on their luck.’  Here dynamic faith, missionary zeal, and sacrificial involvement in social issues cross boundaries of class, race, gender, age and theological systems.

Cox describes the decline of scientific modernity and traditional religion in the context of emerging fundamentalism and experientialism with the dangers and promise these entail.  He hopes Pentecostalism will challenge the deepening ruptures that divide us and ‘open people to new outpourings of the divine spirit and a fresh recognition of the motley oneness of the human family’.

Written in descriptive narrative theology, Fire from Heaven may become a theological classic supplementing the pioneering work of ‘the recognised dean of Pentecostal studies’ Walter Hollenweger who published The Pentecostals in 1972.  (GW)

© Renewal Journal 8: Awakening, 1997, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

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