Tuesday, March 25, 2008

EJ Interview with George O. Wood pt3

George O. Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in America on defending the Pentecostal experience:
I learned from an incredible, stellar faculty composed of the luminaries of the evangelical world at the time: George Eldon Ladd, author of Jesus and the Kingdom; Geoffrey W. Bromiley, the church historian; Wilbur M. Smith; Everett F. Harrison; Edward John Carnell. These people were just phenomenal.

I learned from these professors, but I also learned to rebut the criticism that Pentecostals base their theology on their experience. It happened this way. In my first year I took a class with Gleason L. Archer, a Harvard intellectual who had written an introduction to the Old Testament. Archer knew about 20 ancient languages, such as Sumerian and Akkadian. I had Hebrew and Old Testament with him.

In an orientation class, a different professor came each week for 2 hours and allowed us to ask questions. Some of the students got into a question and answer debate with Archer on what the phrase “husband of one wife” in 1 Timothy 3:2,12 and Titus 1:6 meant.

Archer adamantly said, “husband of one wife means that the elder or the ordained minister can only have one wife in a lifetime. If your spouse dies and you remarry, you are disqualified from that role.” I thought, I’ve never heard that before; that’s extreme.

In my second year of seminary, Archer’s wife died. In my third year, he remarried. He dressed differently, acted like he was 30 years younger than he was, and changed his view on the text 180 degrees. I said to myself, Here is one of the most educated men in the evangelical world, and his experience has helped condition his theology.

There is danger in letting your experience shape your theology. But at the same time, what we as Pentecostals have done — when we have had an experience — is look in Scripture to see if there is any warrant for it. I think that is the key test. If there is no warrant in Scripture for the experience, then we need to question the experience or, at least, not make it universal. We need to regard it as we would Peter’s shadow — a unique event — because other people are not having the same phenomenon. But we can look at our Pentecostal experience and see that it is rooted in Scripture.

Many incidents occurred at Fuller that helped me see this. In fact, Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, wrote a congratulatory note when I was elected general superintendent. I wrote back and expressed deep appreciation for the role Fuller played in my life and ministry.
It is always ironic to me that when discussing issues surrounding the Pentecostal experience with non-pentecostals that what I call the "e" word (experience) is always either downplayed or flat out not allowed, yet how many have had experiences with God that solidify their faith and or relationship with God or as Dr Archer had, he thought one way and then after an experience of losing his wife and getting remarried, changed his theology based on an experience? Yet Pentecostals are not allowed to factor in experience into Pentecostal Theology regarding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as seen in Acts 2:4 and also the exercise of Spiritual Ministries (aka: Gifts)? How does that work?

If you want to read the interview more in full check it out at the Enrichment Journal Online here.

Feel free to let me know what you think.



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