The Annual Walter J. Hollenweger Lecture 2017: The Spirit of the Atonement: Pentecostal Challenges to the Christian Tradition
Professor Steven M. Studebaker (McMaster Divinity College, Ontario, Canada) came to the University of Birmingham on 6 June 2017 to deliver a lecture in honour of Walter J. Hollenweger.
Steven M. Studebaker is Associate Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Howard and Shirley Bentall Chair in Evangelical Thought, and co-director of the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton Ontario. Studebaker presented his new research project on a Pentecostal theology of atonement during his lecture at the University of Birmingham. A key theme of this lecture was that a Pentecostal theology of the atonement promotes a vision for abundant life in and for this world.
Studebaker began with a description of Pentecostal rhetoric. For example, Pentecostal preaching includes proclaiming that “by his stripes we are healed;” Pentecostal worship declares “victory in Jesus” and “there is pow’r, pow’r, wondering-working pow’r, in the precious blood of the Lamb.” The traditional Pentecostal theology of the Full Gospel consists of Jesus the savior, sanctifier, healer, Spirit baptizer, and soon coming king. This Pentecostal rhetoric is primarily Christological and cross-centered. Studebaker then turned to Pentecostal praxis. Charismatic and spiritual gifts, transcending racial and gender bigotries, empowered ministry, and the healing of broken human hearts and lives were animating features of the early Pentecostal movements and, in many respects, remain the DNA of the Pentecostal movements today. Pentecostals, moreover, attribute these experiences of God’s grace to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Pentecostal praxis, in other words, is holistic, transformational, and pneumatological. In short, Pentecostal rhetoric and praxis stand in tension. Taking Pentecostal praxis - the experience of the Holy Spirit and the spirituality it engenders (collectively the Pentecostal tradition) - as theologically significant provides the way to transcend this tension and to develop a Pentecostal theology of the atonement, according to Studebaker.
Studebaker argued that Pentecostal praxis points toward a pneumatological theology of the atonement that can better articulate both the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit and the biblical narrative of redemption than do the Christological and cross-centered categories Pentecostals inherited from their evangelical predecessors. More specifically, he developed the following points. Hermeneutically, atonement should be considered from the perspective of the Spirit of Pentecost and not only the cross. Theologically, the outpouring of the Spirit of Pentecost, and the promise of new creation that follows from it, is the fundamental nature of atonement. Pentecost demonstrates that participating in the life the Spirit realized in Jesus Christ is the essence of the atonement. Pentecost is the nexus from the particularity of the Spirit-breathed life revealed and realized in Christ to the universal outpouring of that life on and for all people. In critical conversation with traditional penal-substitutionary, moral-subjective, and Christologically dominated non-violence and Christus Victor approaches, he developed a Pentecostal theology of the atonement on the basis of the Holy Spirit’s role in the wider biblical narrative of redemption. This narrative of the atonement begins with the Incarnation and progresses through cross, resurrection, Pentecost, and eschaton.
The talk was followed by responses from two PGR students, Simo Frestadius (Regents Theological College) and Mikael Stenhammar (University of Birmingham), a Q/A session and reception.
Professor Studebaker was invited to the University of Birmingham by Dr Wolfgang Vondey, Department of Theology and Religion, to deliver The Annual Walter J. Hollenweger Lecture. The lecture was organized by the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies and the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion.