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Pentecostals and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism: The Anatomy of an Uneasy Relationship

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My aim in this article is to describe how some, predominantly white Pentecostal groups have tried to wed a Pentecostal ecclesiology to a dispensational eschatology. I am concerned to describe the attempt by Pentecostals to find acceptance and legitimation from the dispensationalist-fundamentalist movement. I hope to show both that Pentecostals were not originally dispensationalist-fundamentalists and that the efforts secondarily to embrace such views have raised new problems for the identity of Pentecostals-hermeneutically, sociologically, and politically. My procedure will be, first, to show that the earliest Pentecostal views were not united in agreement with the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture; second, to illustrate that later Pentecostal dispensationalist defenses for a pre-tribulation rapture were inconsistent about applying the same principles to their ecclesiology; and, third, to demonstrate that dispensational eschatological views eventually raise problems even for the most basic Pentecostal understanding of Acts 2. Though much of what I present applies generally to other denominations, I have concentrated my critique on the Assemblies of God. My purpose is not to single out the Assemblies of God, but to choose a denomination whose literature is easily accessible to me and one which very early assumed a strict dispensational eschatology. Before attempting this analysis a few words must be said about the nature of dispensationalist-fundamentalism.

Affiliations: 1: Union Theological Seminary


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