Drawing Two Disparate Traditions Toward Their Wesleyan Center

Click here for an overview of my convictions regarding the dialogue between Pentecostal-Charismatic, Relational, and Wesleyan theologies.

Mutually-Transformative Missions: A Postcolonial, Process-Relational, Pentecostal Missiology
Missiology: An International Review, 2016

ABSTRACT: This article comprises a development of Amos Yong’s three phase Pentecostal missiology in the direction of postcolonialism by fostering “mutually transformative missions”. An appropriation of theological insights from process-relational theology and a creative application of those insights to Yong’s postcolonial proposal facilitate a fuller “non-colonial” missiological model that is grounded both metaphysically and theologically. Three particular metaphysical categories from process-relational theology may support the development of a postcolonial Pentecostal missiology: panentheistic pluralism, mutual transformation, and divine vulnerability. Two case studies are presented to highlight these themes. In terms of metaphysical grounding, process-relational theology may aid Pentecostals in freeing themselves of their colonial rootedness, not just in the west, but in the burgeoning Pentecostal movements in the global south. By embracing panentheistic pluralism, mutual transformation, and divine vulnerability, Pentecostal missiology might take another step in the postcolonial direction. In so doing, Pentecostals might ultimately articulate a global non-colonial, process-relational missiology that focuses less on coercive conquest and more on loving relationality.



Relational Empowerment: A Process-Relational Theology of the Spirit-filled Life
Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 36 (2): 1-20, 2014

ABSTRACT: This article comprises a reformulation of the pentecostal-charismatic notion of spiritual power from a process-relational theological perspective. The problem of power is investigated in terms of coercive and persuasive power, followed by a proposal concerning the role of love in persuasion over coercion. The notion of “relational empowerment” suggests that co-suffering and other-orientedness represent healthier perspectives on persuasive love than typical notions of raw empowerment for domination or control. The primacy of God’s responsive love while co-suffering with creation is central to this affirmation. A Spirit-filled life is proposed as one that fully and enthusiastically embraces the “other-oriented nature” of God’s persuasive love. Moreover, the use of power metaphors is critiqued and alternatives presented. Ultimately, it is argued that the unsurpassable power of such unconditional love must remind the world that “Christ is not Caesar.”

The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life - Edited By Wolfgang VondeyAn ‘Improbable Bond of the Spirit’: Historical Perspectives on the Christian Life in Pentecostal-Charismatic and Process-Relational Theologies Chapter, in The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: Historical, Interdisciplinary, and Renewal Perspectives (CHARIS Series: Christianity and Renewal in Interdisciplinary Studies), Vondey, W. and Yong, A., Eds. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan): 179-198, 2014

ABSTRACT: Pentecostal-charismatic and process-relational theologies are perhaps the most improbable Christian traditions to find unity in the bond of the Spirit; yet, they have surprisingly common historical roots, and these roots run deep. Unobvious but accessible commonalities provide the foundation for dialog for these otherwise disparate voices within the Christian theological spectrum. In this chapter, historical sources will be mined to demonstrate that although their contemporary expressions seem worlds apart, both pentecostal-charismatic and process-relational theologies provide rich insights into the fullness of the Christian life. Through a creative synthesis, these traditions can mutually challenge and enrich one another. These traditions find common roots in post-Enlightenment reactions and primarily represent divergent trajectories as contemporary heirs of Wesleyan theology. Although pentecostal-charismatic and process-relational theologians have viewed one another on divergent ends of the theological spectrum, a renewed emphasis on love can draw them back to their common roots. The directions these traditions have gone, and how to synthesize them again, is the focus of this chapter. The “relationship between Christian life and theological convictions is reciprocal.” It may be then that process-relational theists can give pentecostals and charismatics sound philosophical and metaphysical explanations for their claims, and at the same time, pentecostals and charismatics can give process-relational theists tangible experiences to realize their philosophical constructs. After all, metaphysics is itself pneumatological and a quest for “transcendence and renewal.” Pentecostals and charismatics are uniquely situated to find improbable, but common bonds with process-relational theology, and in the postmodern context to unite “what an earlier age had divided” as “one of the most socially active and Spirit-filled forms of Christianity in the world.” For pentecostals, appropriating and adapting the philosophy and metaphysics of process-relational theology may aid in the realization of the “pentecostal imagination,” the quest to “conceive the world in its wholeness and to engage it.” In spite of obvious differences, pentecostals and charismatics should embrace the common Wesleyan affinities with process-relational theology and continue to directly engage philosophy and metaphysics to address the complex needs of a contemporary world. By affirming such an “improbable bond” of the Spirit, the next one hundred years may look very different for pentecostal-charismatic and process-relational theists alike.

Wesleyan Theological JournalFrom Causality to Relationality: Toward a Wesleyan Theology of Concursus
Wesleyan Theological Journal 49 (1): 122-138, 2014

ABSTRACT: Similar to perennial philosophical debates on free will versus determinism, theological questions persist concerning the freedom of human beings to act in accordance with God’s will. Debates between Calvinists and Arminians, theological determinists and free-will theists remain contentious and unresolved. While John Wesley attempted a solution to the problem of free will with his doctrine of prevenient grace, his attempt was seen as an overemphasis on human volition to the theological determinists and an under emphasis on human responsibility to libertarian free-will theists. The ways in which God and humanity interact, in light of both philosophical and scientific understanding of the natural world and theological conceptions of God’s character, remain difficult to explain in universally acceptable terms. This article represents the framing of this debate in terms of concursus, the concurrent action of two or more causes that lead to a particular effect. In the case of theological concursus, the two primary factors in question are human and divine actions. Our goal is to frame Wesley’s doctrine of prevenient grace as concursus in contemporary philosophical terms. Moreover, insofar as Christian perfection is Wesley’s most distinctive but most often misunderstood teaching, a theology of concursus can help rationalize, clarify, and communicate just what Wesleyans mean when they talk about prevenient grace or the sanctification of the human will. Three historical perspectives on concursus documented by Bernard Boedder are surveyed and evaluated here in light of Wesley’s doctrine of prevenient grace. Finally, contemporary pentecostal, process-relational, and scientific perspectives are synthesized to formulate a direction for a Wesleyan theology of concursus that affirms “empowered but uncoerced” participation in God’s loving interaction with humanity. The result, it is hoped, will contribute to the ongoing development of a philosophically and scientifically informed Wesleyan theology.


Of Miracles and Metaphysics: A Pentecostal-Charismatic and Process-Relational Dialogue
Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 48 (2), June 2013

ABSTRACT: This article is comprised of a dialogue between Pentecostal-Charismatic and Process-Relational theologies on the perennial issue of miracles. The language of supernaturalism, widely employed by Pentecostal-Charismatic theologians, is contrasted with the metaphysical naturalism of Process-Relational theology; it is proposed that a philosophically and scientifically sensitive theology of miracles is possible through a synthesis of both traditions. Themes such as nonmaterialism over materialism, spiritual experience, and prayer for healing miracles are explored. A theology of miracles, mutually informed by both Pentecostal-Charismatic and Process-Relational theologies, may focus less on whether or not miracles are possible, but instead focus more on what kind of miracles human beings might value most. By mutually engaging a theology of nonsupernatural, metaphysically grounded miracles, Pentecostal-Charismatic and Process-Relational theologians may collaborate to establish the groundwork for creative scientific enterprises, especially in the non-Western world where Pentecostalism continues to experience its most rapid growth, Such perspectives may eventually lead to cutting-edge discoveries about the fundamental nature of, and God’s interaction with, reality itself. Implications for future research are proposed.

Journal of Pentecostal TheologyToward a Pentecostal Theology of Concursus
Journal of Pentecostal Theology 22 (1): 95–114, 2013

ABSTRACT: This article entails a critical analysis of the Pentecostal understanding of concursus. The survey of literature consists of the principal elements of Pentecostal pneumatology and the activity of the Spirit as the basis from which the corresponding Pentecostal perception of the God-world relationship is derived. The analysis includes three Pentecostal perspectives in light of historical philosophical categories of concursus. Following that analysis, a synthesis of these perspectives is presented as a specifically Pentecostal formulation that evades historical categories. Finally, the appropriation and application of spiritual power through lived experience is surveyed, which forms the basis of a Pentecostal theology of concursus as mediate cooperation with the Spirit through human agency.


Beyond Causation: A Contemporary Theology of Concursus
American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 34 (2):117-134, 2013

ABSTRACT: While divine action has been the subject of contemporary dialog between theologians and natural scientists, the dynamics of corresponding interaction between God and human beings has been left relatively underdeveloped. In this article, concursus is explored from a contemporary theological perspective, primarily in the context of Brümmer, Farrer, and Wiles, each of whom developed comprehensive theories of divine action. Scientifically-informed theories of divine action are taken into consideration to form a contemporary and substantive theology of concursus. Although science can inform perspectives on divine-human interaction, ultimately human beings are left to the hermeneutical task of theologically interpreting past experiences. Subjective retrospection is supported as a viable means for identifying concursus. Thus, theologians may need to move beyond archaic theories of linear causation and focus instead on subjectively interpreting the ways in which human beings may be said to interact with God. Such subjectivity is not meaningless; instead, it meaningfully enriches human life. This article contributes to the ongoing conversation concerning divine action by framing the discussion in terms of concursus: the ‘interaction’ of God and humanity.

Process StudiesProcess-Relational Theology, Pentecostalism, and Postmodernism: Opportunities for Socio-Religious Transformation
Process Studies 41 (1): 87-110, 2012

ABSTRACT: This article is a critical exploration of compatibilities between Pentecostal-Charismatic theology and Process-Relational theology. The purpose of the investigation is to identify similarities that provide sufficient ground for mutual dialogue and transformation between the two traditions. Postmodernism is identified as a context in which such dialogue can occur, insofar as both the Pentecostal-Charismatic movements and Process-Relational theology are understood as reactions to modernism. The theological theme of “concursus,” the way in which God and humanity interact, is briefly explored as a point of contact. Several social and ecclesial implications of mutual transformation are identified. Ecclesial implications of mutual transformation include a renewal of Process-Relational spirituality, an intellectualization of Pentecostal-Charismatic experience, ecumenical dialogue between evangelical and mainline denominations, and tempered operation of the charismata for Pentecostals. Social implications of mutual transformation include the possibility for positive social change, concern for healing and justice, and an increased cosmic concern. Ultimately, inasmuch as Pentecostalism is identified as an “experience in search of a theology,” Process-Relational theism is identified as a “theology in search of an experience.” Through dialogue and engagement, both the Pentecostal-Charismatic and Process-Relational traditions may gain a stronger and more holistic sense of humanity, God, and reality.