Just a thought
Preface: this post is not an attack or meant to be an attack or any antagonism whatsoever against those of you who have joined or are in the process of joining the Eastern Orthodox Church in one of its many manifestations. This is merely an observation. If you have found your home in the Eastern…
This is a great reflection and I think it’s something that all those who were raised Protestants should try to think through.
Speaking as a Pentecostal, I can say that this “primitivism” was not only an implicit goal but often explicitly taught in many circles. The Pentecostal movement had this idea of “Restorationism”, the idea that God was restoring the purity of the early Church through this group of people, embedded into their narrative. They would preach that justification had been restored by Martin Luther in the Reformation, Holiness had been restored through John Wesley and the holiness movement, Premillennialism had been restored through the prophecy movement of the 19th centuries, and now, through the Pentecostal movement, God was restoring the full baptism of the Holy Spirit through signs and wonders.
Of course, a lot of the restorationist fervor was lost in many Pentecostal circles (and for the better, I believe), much because it become more and more increasingly Protestant. Pentecostals were marginalized very early on and eventually wanted acceptance from the wider evangelical circles. Which is why many key proponents of early Pentecostalism were eventually done away with by the 40s and 50s, (e.g. pacifism, high view of the Eucharist, communal living, racial reconciliation, gender equality, and much more).
There is now a large group of people raised Pentecostal (like myself) who have discovered the beauty of the early parts of the movement, yet have become more disillusioned with how overly Protestant the movement looks today (some try to argue that Pentecostalism should make a fourth force of Christianity, including the RCC, EOC, and Protestantism, distinguishing it from all three). A large majority of them have come to these conclusions by not only looking at the movement’s early history, but looking at the early Church Fathers and largely doing so by way of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
They’re looking for a way to take Pentecostal presuppositions (which we can’t escape) and find something that is both true to Scripture, true to tradition, and true to our heritage. There’s a move by many Pentecostals to introduce the Eucharist on a weekly basis (and making it the center of worship), to incorporate theosis into the doctrine of sanctification, include more liturgical structures in church services, and a great number of other things. This is all while retaining Pentecostal convictions at the core as well.
It’s an interesting thing to watch, for sure. And I’m excited to get even more of a first hand look at it when I attend Pentecostal Theological Seminary this fall.
Great post, Scott. Thanks for pushing me and others to examine ourselves critically.