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“Epistemology, Ethos, and Environment”: In Search of a Theology of Pentecostal Theological Education 1

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Abstract The purpose of this essay is to take a theological look at Pentecostal theological education at the global level. While dialoguing widely with various current and historical discussions of the theology of theological education, particularly with David Kelsey of Yale University, the essay urges Pentecostals to negotiate an epistemology that corrects and goes beyond both modernity and postmodernity. The essay also urges Pentecostals to negotiate several seeming opposites such as “academic” versus “spiritual” or “doctrinal” versus “critical.” The final part of the essay offers Pentecostals some advice and inspiration from the reservoirs of the long history and experience of non-Pentecostal theological institutions.

1. FN11 This essay is a slightly revised version of my presentation at the World Alliance for Pentecostal Theological Education Consultation in Stockholm, Sweden, August 25 2010.
2. FN22 Ian S. Markham, “Theological Education in the Twenty-First Century,” Anglican Theological Review 92, no. 1 (2010): 157.
3. FN33 Ibid.
4. FN44 Christian Lalive d’Epinay, “The Training of Pastors and Theological Education: The Case of Chile,” International Review of Missions 56 (April 1967): 185-92.
5. FN55 The remark comes from Timothy Dearborn, Director of the Seattle Association for Theological Education, reported in Jon M. Ruthven, “Are Pentecostal Seminaries a Good Idea?” n.p., available at (accessed 7/12/2010).
6. FN66 For a fine essay with ample documentation on the history and current state of Pentecostal theological education, see Paul Lewis, “Explorations in Pentecostal Theological Education,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 10, no. 2 (2007): 161-76.
7. FN77 “Fact* Survey Results: A 2000 Survey of Assemblies of God Churches” (Springfield, MO: Office of the General Secretary, 2000), 9. Copies of this survey are available from the Office of Statistics or from the Office of the General Secretary in Springfield, Missouri. I am indebted to Cecil M. Robeck, my colleague at Fuller, for providing me with this information.
8. FN88 David H. Kelsey, Between Athens and Berlin: The Theological Debate (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993).
9. FN99 Brian Edgar, “The Theology of Theological Education,” Evangelical Review of Theology 29, no. 3 (2005): 209.
10. FN1010 I am indebted to the essay by Edgar, “Theology of Theological Education,” for helping find connections between the four models.
11. FN1111 Robert Banks, Revisioning Theological Education (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999).
12. FN1212 Edgar, “Theology of Theological Education,” 211.
13. FN1313 Ernest Gellner, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion (London: Routledge, 1992).
14. FN1414 Ellen T. Cherry, “Educating for Wisdom: Theological Studies as a Spiritual Exercise,” Theology Today 66, no. 3 (2009): 298.
15. FN1515 See further, Cherry, “Educating for Wisdom,” 296-97.
16. FN1616 Mark Hutchinson, “ ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic of Learning’: Thoughts on Academic Freedom in a Pentecostal College,” Australasian Pentecostal Studies 9 (July 2005/6): 10.
17. FN1717 Ibid.
18. FN1818 Serene Jones, “Practical Theology in Two Modes,” in For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry, ed. Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 195.
19. FN1919 For an important discussion of “practices,” see Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life, ed. Miroslav Volf and Dorothy Bass (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002).
20. FN2020 Ronald F. Thiemann, “Making Theology Central in Theological Education,” Christian Century, February 4-11, 1987, 106-8, available at (accessed July 11, 2006).
21. FN2121 For an important call by a noted ecumenist from India to renew missional commitment in all theological education, see Christopher Duraisingh, “Ministerial Formation for Mission: Implications for Theological Education,” International Review of Mission 81, no. 1 (January 1992): 33-45.
22. FN2222 Markham, “Theological Education,” 159.
23. FN2323 See Lewis, “Explorations,” 162.
24. FN2424 See further, Markham, “Theological Education,” 164.
25. FN2525 Jeffrey Hittenberger, “Toward a Pentecostal Philosophy of Education,” Pneuma 23, no. 2 (2001): 226, 230; I am indebted to Lewis, “Explorations” (p. 172) for this citation.
26. FN2626 For an enlightening analysis of the uneasy relationship between Pentecostalism and Fundamentalism, see Gerald T. Sheppard, “Pentecostalism and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism: The Anatomy of an Uneasy Relationship,” Pneuma 6, no. 2 (1984): 5-34.
27. FN2727 Henry I. Lederle, “Pentecostals and Ecumenical Theological Education,” Ministerial Formation 80 (January 1998): 46.
28. FN2828 Markham, “Theological Education,” 160-62.
29. FN2929 “Challenges and Opportunities in Theological Education in the 21st Century: Pointers for a New International Debate on Theological Education,” Short version, Edinburgh 2010 — International study group on theological education, World Study Report 2009, p. 8, available at (accessed 7/13/2010).
30. FN3030 In addition, there are locations that are difficult to classify such as the Folkhögskola (“Folk High School”) institutions in Nordic countries, which play an important role, for example, in Sweden and in Finland.
31. FN3131 “Challenges and Opportunities in Theological Education,” 6.
32. FN3232 Ruthven, “Pentecostal Seminaries,” n.p.
33. FN3333 Cited in “Challenges and Opportunities in Theological Education,” 5.

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Affiliations: 1: Fuller Theological Seminary Pasadena, CA USA Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki Finland


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