Thinking in the Spirit: Theologies of the Early Pentecostal Movement

In June 1918 a Philadelphia reporter asked Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson to describe her theology. McPherson flashed a smile and replied that she had none: rather, she favored old-fashioned experience. She was not alone. Most early Pentecostals explicitly shunned theology, along with the other baggage of “dead” denominations. In general, they preferred action to reflection, the heat of spiritual battle to the life of the mind, spontaneity to order. But their distaste for formal theology could not mask the role of biblicism and informal theology among the rank and file, who recited, invoked and applied obscure passages of the King James Bible to make the point that New Testament spiritual gifts had been restored as a sign of the imminent end of time.


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