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Verna Linzey, Scholarship and the Pentecostal Experience

Composing a scholarly work and attempting to capture the Pentecostal experience is like describing a love relationship with purely technical terms. In describing some experiences, words give the impression that they are inadequate. I will attempt, however, to put substance onto structure, using persuasion rather than pure reason, to substantiate my work. Faith is certainly reasonable; however, in this case, it is above reason, while not defying reason.

Experience is very subjective, yet it has a basis from which it draws its credibility. The early Apostles interpreted their experience on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), by the insight and illumination which they received from the person of the Holy Spirit. They appropriated their experience to prophetic utterances in the Hebrew Scriptures (Joel 2). They learned to substantiate their external experiences, by the parameters of the sacred Scriptures. Their use of the Septuagint also known as LXX, was extremely helpful in establishing these parameters. Experiences have an innate need to be clarified, and understood deeply, if the experience is going to direct the thinking, and redirect the behavior of the recipient. There have been ‘strange’ and curious experiences recorded all over the landscape of Holy Scripture, which have challenged the scholar beyond their linguistic and historical insight. There is something about personal experience that shores up the credibility of theory. I propose to share these experiences which have taken place within the sphere of the “Pentecostal Movement”, and to prop them up with substantial theological reflection and exegesis. I will examine the thought of the “Apostolic Fathers”, the “Doctors of the Church”, as well as leading theological thinkers in both the ancient Church, and those of the last two centuries. Special emphasis will be put on those thinkers that have experienced the Biblical experience of glossolalia. Exegesis and not eisegesis will be the method of inquiry applied to this important work.

Verna Linzey, D.D.

(An excerpt from The Gifts of the Spirit, to be released in 2013)

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