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March 26, 2007



Hey Shane,
Great blog! I’ve read part 1 and 2 and I decided to comment once rather than twice.

I appreciate the fact that with this blog you put off the technical biblical debates for the time being in order to go on to address some important questions from a Classical Pentecostal position.
Specifically, questions of ecumenism, and elitism. Although, I believe the Bible needs to be the primary source for developing an authoritative view of Spirit Baptism, and normative Christian living, we must move on as Classical Pentecostals to address these issues (I use the term “Classical Pentecostals” to refer to those who are members of churches that came about from the “first wave” movement of the Holy Spirit which began in the first decade of the 1900’s, and uphold the doctrine of initial physical evidence).

Yet it is inevitable that when addressing the topic of elitism (essential for the ecumenical discussion) that the conversation be quickly drawn to what the nature of Spirit Baptism is, and the difference between Classical Pentecostal and Non-Classical Pentecostal Christians in regards to the Spirit’s work. I’d be willing to bet that this question (posed by Josh) is in the minds of many within and without the Assemblies of God.

In response to Josh, you avoided focusing on what the Spirit does in Pentecostals vs. what the Spirit doesn’t do in non-Pentecostals. And then you say:
• It’s a mystery.
• One experiences more power in prayer.
• One is more open to listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, you rightly point out that even non-Pentecostals, non-tongues speakers pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. Then you point to the testimony of Pentecostals that they claim to experience “a new dimension” of empowerment.

I know we as Pentecostals like to point to specific “crisis events” of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. The first crisis event is conversion were the Holy Spirit first indwells the believer. Then we like to point to a second (subsequent to conversion) crisis experience were the Holy Spirit empowers the believer for service. With this understanding (based on the crisis event concept), how can one avoid a two-class Christianity? One class of Christians made up of those who have only experienced the initial “filling/indwelling” of the Spirit. And the second class of Christians with both the filling/indwelling of the Spirit and the “filling/empowerment” of the Spirit?

I suggest we view the Holy Spirit’s work as more of a process or with a more organic paradigm. What does this look like? Well, the initial filling of the Holy Spirit is part of authentic conversion, and as a natural result of that communion there is empowerment for life and witness as our faith matures. Now, I agree that God uses “crisis experiences” along the journey, but rather than looking for that one Spirit baptism experience, we need to expect a continual stream of experiencing the Spirit who thrusts us into, or more accurately, empowers us within the missional context. The advantage to a more organic paradigm of Spirit-reception and empowerment is as Paul says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). Furthermore, it encourages each of us as well as the whole community of Christ to expect to experience the continual filling of the Spirit of God for empowerment in the mission of God.

Why do I have the feeling that you have a number of questions? I too still have questions, but I am looking forward to our future conversation...


In the absence of more posts on this topic (which I assumed would have been many) I will step in again because I think that this topic is actually something of great importance for us to be discussing.

Shane, I really like the sentiment of your post, and I think I agree with you, however I'm pretty sure that you seem to have tried some kind of "Jedi mind-trick" on us to make it appear that you offered an answer when in fact you gently hopped, like a playful kangaroo, around the key points.
Can you give me (and other readers) something more concrete?

William, you seem to include yourself in the group "Classical Pentecostals", however you must be aware that your suggested paradigm is quite a long way away from what I would assume many (most?) would understand as the "Classical Pentecostal" position.
Can I ask how you arrived at this position? (Through your own reading/study, from sermons you've heard preached, people you've come in contact with?)

Cameron Thompson

Hi Shane,
Thanks again for your efforts here. I would have to affirm your position from my own 'experience'. I think that the work of the Spirit is obvious in the lives of many devout non-Pentecostal Christians; in motivation them for mission, love for neighbour, evangelism and the character of their lives.
I have often discovered the gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation amongst non-Pentecostals, although I have noticed that often they do not identify them so (maybe because they are not fully aware of how the Spirit is moving through them).
I have witness them offering words of wisdom, knowledge, and speaking prophesy. I have seen them exercise pastoral, preaching, teaching, helping gifts. I have seen them react to all sorts of situations in very Spirit-empowered manners, that at the time, put to shame any Pentecostal I had seen.
Of course the fruit of the Spirit is so often evident as well, however that is another debate altogether.
In my contact with non-Pentecostals, often questions were raised in my mind about what we were really on about. Much of my church experience was spent in meetings seeking signs and wonders and 'more Lord more' of his Spirit, yet the non-Pentecostal Christians down the road were getting on with the practical outworking of the Christian life, without looking for miracles and gold dust and words of knowledge.
Since then I have also meet many firm, grounded Pentecostal Christians who were also faithfully living out the non-extravagant and supernatural aspects of Christianity.
It takes all sorts I guess

Shane Clifton

Concrete eh Josh - is this pneumatology and spirituality we are contemplating or mathematics!!


Shane, I hope it doesn't turn into a mathematical discussion because, for the life of me, I can't remember anything from highschool maths classes except that when my calculator's battery went flat I was in real trouble!
I guess my suggestion of something a little more concrete comes out of the fact that the official Australian AoG doctrine on the subject is quite straight-forward.
This would suggest to me that, therefore, as pentecostals, we should have some straight-forward understanding of the difference between what it means for someone to claim a Spirit baptism experience as opposed to someone who hasn't.
That is, of course, if reality is as cut and dry as the official doctrine suggests.
I am interested, though, that in Cameron's post he indicated that the discussion of the fruit of the Spirit being evident is an entirely different debate to the one that we are currently engaged in.
Why is this so?
What is the great divide that separates the fruit of the Spirit and the "evidence" of Spirit baptism?


Hey Josh,
Thanks for your questions. I do consider myself in the classical Pentecostal camp, and I do realize that many of the older Pentecostals hold tightly to the “crisis moments” paradigm. Yet, what I call a more “organic” paradigm is not that far off, in that I don’t think it puts one outside the Classical Pentecostal camp.

How did I arrive at this position? Like any good Pentecostal, I must say Scripture. But in honor of Shane I won’t get into the debates. Let’s just say that this “more organic” paradigm attempts to work out the complementary nature of the Lukan, Pauline, and Johannine, etc. understandings of Spirit Baptism, rather than solely looking at Luke’s view of Spirit Baptism as non-complementary and superior to all others (and I’ll leave it at that).

If your are looking for a great academic source which backs up viewing Sprit Baptism with less of a crisis moments paradigm, and more of a organic paradigm; while at the same time not moving out of Classical Pentecostalism see Frank Macchia’s book, Baptized in the Spirit. Here’s an excerpt:

“The nineteenth-century Pietist and social activist Christoph Blumhardt once wrote that one must convert twice: from the world to God and from God to the world. Pentecostals see Spirit baptism as a prophetic call that draws one close to the heart of God in praise and prophetic empathy for the world but which accents the ‘second conversion’ by empowering one for witness in the world….Pentecostals are not at all agreed on how to relate the first and second ‘conversions.’ The older tendency was to see Spirit baptism as a separate reception of the Spirit that functioned as a rite of passage to spiritual fullness and spiritual gifts. What I regard to be a more helpful trend, the tendency now among many Pentecostals is to accent the gift of the Spirit given in regeneration and to view the Pentecostal experience of Spirit baptism as empowerment for witness as a ‘release’ of an already-indwelling Spirit in life….Implied is that all Christians are charismatic. Christians at whatever level of spiritual maturity find their ministries enhanced with greater power and effectiveness through an experience of Spirit baptism.” (Frank Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit, 77).

In support, Macchia quotes Anthony D. Palma, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary:

“The Spirit works internally in a repentant and believing person to effect the new birth. He does not then depart from the believer, to come back again at the time of infilling. Some are confused because of Spirit baptism imagery that the New Testament uses, such as ‘baptized in,’ ‘poured out,’ ‘falling up,’ ‘coming upon.’ But these are only figurative and graphic ways of portraying an overwhelming experience of the already indwelling Spirit. This is why some call it a ‘release’ of the already indwelling Spirit” (Palma, “Spirit Baptism: Before and After” Enrichment Journal 10:1 [2005], p. 94; cited in Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit, 77).

I agree with Macchia, “Perhaps we should speak of a theology of Spirit baptism that is soteriologically and charismatically defined, an event that has more than one dimension because it is eschatological in nature and not wholly defined by notions of Christian initiation.” (Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit, 16)

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