J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu Final
6:12PM Jun 26, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu
Dr. J. Kwabena Ashamoah-Gyadu. Dr. Ashamoah-Gyadu is professor of African Christianity and Pentecostal theology at Trinity Theological Seminary at Lagaan, Ghana. He is the author of African charismatics, current developments within independent indigenous Pentecostalism in Ghana, and he's also the author of the text that we'll be discussing today, Contemporary Pentecostal Theology: Interpretations from an African Context. We're absolutely thrilled to be speaking with you today. Dr. Asamoah-Gyadu.
Thank you. Thank you. The pleasure is mine.
Dr. Awesome archaea do we understand that Pentecostalism is growing very rapidly in the around the world. How would you define Pentecostalism?
I have a standard definition of Pentecostalism. tries not to denominational eyes it so in my understanding, but it is a form of Christian spirituality and any Christian Christian spirituality that values at
a flames and that
consciously promotes the experience of the Spirit as part of normal Christian life and worship, I will describe us Pentecostal. And I choose the words quite carefully because you would find a lot of Christian movements. In fact every Christian movement or church believes in the spirit. But Pentecostals not only value and affirm the experience, not just belief, but also experienced And they sit me at church that also values the experience, but it is not no mating for them. So that's how I made the distinction between and it was a non Pentecostal. So for example, it was a Baptist Church. There are 10 people in the Baptist congregation that speak in tongues for example. And you cannot dare come conclude that happened because our church No, because the Baptist tradition that not
put that experience as a normal part of preset expression. You see, so that's how I made the distinction. So that check or movement, mass value, must affirm and must conscious, promote, not just belief, but also experience of the spirit and this must be seen as More meaty to Christian life and wishing then I can see that particular church movement is Pentecostal.
And Dr. asamoah. Dr. Do Is Is it possible to define Pentecostalism through doctrine or dogma? Or you've made a distinction between spirituality and and Christian theology? Is it possible also to define Pentecostalism by pure dogma?
I will not do that. I will not do that because once you pigeonhole the spirit, you denominational eyes the movement Oh, Wesley and spirituality, you know nationalize in the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian form of ecclesiology has been nationalized. By setting churches so I wouldn't pigeonhole Pentecostalism that way I don't like it has never been the preserve of those who claimed a Pentecostal heritage. And that is why you can have people in a non Pentecostal church who believe in Pentecostal experiences. And you can have people in a Pentecostal church who may not have or even believe in the Pentecostal experiences. So in spite of the fact that we have denominations that call themselves but at Costco, I will always see plenty of spirituality. And when I see that way, it
who are pro terian who are Methodists, who are Catholic, to be faster, not necessarily early. join up because I know In the West, these are core charismatics. I don't sigh we make those distinctions in non Western countries like mine. All we know, is that spirit you know, so, Pentecostal charismatic that is in our context, we use them, because that's what we have inherited from the west. You know, and the thing is that because theology I mean academic theology, develop in the West, we have it upon ourselves to, as it were fueler guys on every experience, which is not a bad idea, but once we have the theology Don't let us pigeonhole it. I mean, for example, I go for conferences and people ask me, are you a Pentecostal yourself? And then I asked them the question do you mean by denominational by experience is by no mission? No. It was by experience, I believe And share the Pentecostal faith or do they choose to come to the Methodist Church? You know, so
that's why I
tend to define pedestal in terms of denomination, rather than in terms of spirituality.
This is an enormously helpful distinction that you're making Dr. isomorphic. Er, who would you be willing to help me further understand, what do you mean when you describe, when you make this distinction between a form of theology, dogma doctrine or denominational life and spirituality? What is a spirituality?
When I say spirituality, I mean, lived, in other words, how people translate their faith experience into everyday living. So Pentecostal spirituality will refer to referred to how the Christian life is left in the power of the Spirit, I mean, I can tell you that there are places where you would go, for example, and they will not tolerate faith healing, divine healing by prayer. Everything must be medical science, for example. Or there are places where they don't even believe that if somebody says, I had a medical condition and the Lord healed me, people will resist it and raise eyebrows. There are places where when people say, I have the gift of speaking in tongues, there'll be resistance, but there are people who don't think that that kind of experience is open to all Christians, you know, so the person
who has to face
and who believes these experiences and who tries to live them, you know, I would say is practicing and of course as virtuality you know, so for example, I know that When people are sick, they must go to the hospital. But what stops me from chatting upon someone who is very ill, and laying hands upon him, and praying in the name and authority of Jesus and said to him, if he's healed, I give thanks to God. If the person is not healed, I say go to hospital, because it is God who gave us the wisdom to practice medical science anyway. So whichever way what our true medical science or through faith, I will see God's hand and I will not limit God to technology.
Thank you, doctor or someone very helpful responses. We're discussing today contemporary Pentecostal Christianity interpretations from an African context. And we're delighted to be speaking with the historian. Dr. Dr. Awesome. Oh God, how do you understand the genesis of the Pentecostal movement?
in the fast lane, there's out that movement appeal So the Bible as this foundation document in terms of areas, I usually say that a penny stock movement is built on three hermeneutical principles. Three. The first one is promise, the fan, God promises to pour out His Spirit of flesh.
The second is fulfillment,
that God is faithful to fulfill the promise he has made.
And we know he felt alive.
But in New Testament, he fulfilled when the Spirit is upon Him
at His baptism,
and also our
various points. And then in the apostles, the promise is fulfilled it the
Pentacles and pizza Make a direct match between 20 costs and the promise in oil. So the price
is public. And then the effect word is experience. So, a promise, filament experience and experience is the fact that, that what was promised by God and which was fulfilled, can be experienced, even in our day.
So the genesis of the
coaster movement is believe in the promise of God, its fulfillment and explain. That's what Peter said. When the crowd asks him What shall we do? How should we respond to this Planet Coaster messy.
depend on the ties the name of Jesus and you will receive the gift of the Spirit And he said, the problems is for you, your children, and for those who are far off.
In other words, not just for juice,
but also for Gentiles.
Not not just for those who are listening to him, but those who come after, you know, so so the genesis of the Pentecostal movement is the Bible. And the fact that biblical promises can be experienced even today. So promise, fulfillment experience. And then we find that throughout history,
people who have
consciously waited on God because that's what that's what Jesus told the disciples wait. People have consciously waited on God, for this promise that was fulfilled in scriptures to be experienced in the day
have have actually experienced the faithfulness of God.
Wherever I go in the world, whether I'm in Africa, I'm in Asia, I'm in Latin America, I'm in North America, I find people who can test it I have experienced the Spirit of God. No one can convince me that all these people are closed across the globe. lying about the experience is you know, I mean, if you consider the the Paul's argument on the resurrection, in First Corinthians 15, for basis is all his argument there is direction on the fact that Jesus revealed himself to people himself to see what he wrote in self to the 1200
and processed sack of who that is, if you think those are life. They can't
all being that yes, we saw there is
and I think spirits like that. If Africans are testifying,
Americans are testifying. Canadians are testifying. Latin Americans are testifying. Asians are testifying. You can say to me that they are all faking. You know so, so the Genesis
if it doesn't have to be traced
to while your graphical location, and I think my North American colleagues must stop pointing ziza Azusa Street as the only genesis of geographical location of pentacles because after all my colleague
with evidence I've known before as a street that went to Costa Rica was in India,
in Africa. Very good. Thank you, Doctor awesome monkey out for that very fine response. We understand here in the West that Christianity is experiencing unprecedented growth in Africa. Over the last 100 years or more, how do you explain this incredible growth of Christianity in Africa?
I mean, the first place I go goes where he's received
a five misstep from being conditioned that his life was under siege from heroin. He Roger Africa,
so so Christianity has
never been alien to our experience. Because God first that they kind of got first came to Africa and refugee. So I call him like to say,
an Mo. Note.
more riffing upon the West.
Is this deliberate
to separate religion, from public life.
We haven't experienced that sort of
That's sort of Stampede on Christianity
in Africa. So people
able to express their faith, even within the public sphere.
And I would say that one of the things that the West did that hasten the decline of Christianity was when the Bible was demystified as sacred texts.
When we started
treating the Bible, through the historical, critical methods of study
at a mere textbook,
so the Bible lost its mystical all
in the West.
And once that happens, it's only a matter of time, then when people begin to refuse to take its content seriously. In Africa, most people take the Bible for what it is. If you compare with with Islam, for example, Islam is doing well because it has, it has preserved the, the sacredness of the Holy Quran. And I think in Africa, that's what the Bible that's how the Bible has been, has been preserved. You know, so it helps people to believe in its contents. Because the Bible is still seen as secret material. I have a hava an article called Beyond text and Chris, beyond. It's an interpretation, which deals with even the symbolic ways by which the Bible is used. So part of this is why Christianity is great here is that people are so fundamental in their face when it comes to Scripture. And of course, African religious college is always experiential. And that helps us to, as it were, translate what we believe into practice, you know, and there are many other factors. One of them was the translation of the Bible into a pronounced place. It helped people to own the Bible in their own mother tongues. And a number of my senior colleagues like Lamin Stein LBA University and the lead, crybaby Dr. Cohn, who passed on a couple of years ago and one or two others have pointed to the transition of the Bible as an important dimension in the growth of Christianity and non Western countries, especially Africa. So there are different factors but some of them is what, what outlined.
Thank you, Dr. Sam ogia.
In your text in chapter four, which is in titled, The 1270 paradigm shift ecclesiology in the new charismatic ministries, you describe a unique characteristic of Pentecostal ecclesiology. First of all, would you be willing to explain to our listeners, what is this 1270 paradigm shift? And then what is this Pentecostal ecclesiology that you derive from that?
Right now to begin with, that was in Japan.
It's not original to me. But
because I understand when it comes to formal spirituality, when I'm doing an Acosta theology, I don't use the benchmarks of conventional theology. The benchmarks of conventional theology, our doctrine of God of Jesus Christ, Christology of Holy Spirit, the mythology of the church, ecclesiology churches, three mission passes. I don't do that.
What I do is
I feel gize that grass roots. In other words, what are the Pentecostals themselves?
saying about the faith? How are they expressing the faith? So if I'm writing about God,
I'm writing about God, as I know it for two somatic yogic texts. I'm writing about God, as I've experienced him within a Pentecostal aerospike worship context. So this 1270 paradigm, I took it from a series of sermons, preached by a popular Pentecostal figure in Ghana, where I live. And he explained that Jesus first chose 12 disciples, and then later, he sent out the 70 of course, in some places to whatever it is, and the point he was making sounded very, very, very ecclesiological. To me. The point he was making was that the fact that Jesus chose 12
and sent out 72. Thus, does not, let's say means that
admission is not the president of a select field. And that's why Jesus expanded the base of his disciples. So the 1220 paradigm is an it is a logical paradigm.
recognize this, they
have added the Apostolic option should not be limited to the 12 because Jesus expanded it. So the 1270 pounds At least allergy. It's better to Caliphate Acosta, because then you are not a bishop because you have been thrown by the nation, you are a bishop because that is your calling into the spirit.
So, Christian military
come to Penn, not on a theology, on denominational endorsement, but on the giftings of the spirit and if according to scriptures, we are all gifted by the Spirit, then you function in your that is your calling. So, no single person can claim that a Bible teacher for nobody else can teach or I prophesied, so nobody can prophesied No, at 1270 paradigm means that the the use of Chris disproportion apostleship has been expanded And therefore, our calls come to depend not on theological training, or donation affiliation, but on our calling, by the experience of the Spirit. So that's basically the 1270 paradigm in ecclesiology is a is a spirit is part ecclesiology that sees that sees checks life, from the perspective what is spirit doing among these people?
Very good. And Dr. Awesome Oh God, if I could call for a clarifying question. In Pentecostal theology, is there a unique role for the historical apostles or does a pasta olicity simply flow forward facilitated by the gifting of the Spirit?
Right, let me put it this way.
an Episcopalian whether Anglican or Catholic
talks about toilets obsession
basically talking about ministry as hundred down by the apostle in hierarchy cartels.
Even in the Catholic tradition, as you may be aware,
Peter become the first book. And therefore the current Pope derives authority directly from PETA and so on. But then at Pentecost, talks about apostolic succession.
He or she is talking about
experiencing the same graces that the apostles experience and climbing military under the same function that the apostles carried out. So, that is what distinguishes Pentecostal ecclesiology from all others, because that's talked about a construction session, not in terms of position and power. In terms of the fact that the apostles experienced the spirit, and they did ministry in the power of the Spirit, and we have succeeded the apostles in that sense, but in the sense of being in a hierarchical order. So opposite secession means two different things in these two traditions. And that's, that's what I will say about apostolic succession.
Thank you for them. And Dr. Awesome Auggie, Otto, what is the African Pentecostal understanding of the Eucharist if I can move into that area now?
In the first place, if we want to understand anything about Pentecostal theology, especially when it comes to the sacraments, we must understand that Pentecostals have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the spirit
we cannot and Pentecostalism is not a single image like that conflicted, represented by a single center that determines what happens at every level. That's why in Pentecostalism we have somewhat Trinitarian fathers and Holy Spirit and there are some who are oneness Pentecostals who believe that baptism for example should happen in the name of Jesus. So yeah open because you know, so, um, when it comes to the Eucharist, Pentecostals don't necessarily have a single understanding, like transubstantiation or concentration. When you look at Barry Costa, you guys, you can find a bit of everything. You can find a bit of everything, they will not limit it to one particular understanding. So that also does not limited them in You know, so I have been to a Pentecostal church where they use small piece of doughnuts to celebrate communion elected that should be completely acceptable. But Pentecostals place the emphasis on the side effects
it symbolizes logically you know, so if you hear a typical penne pasta prayer Oba the sacrament is asking God to heal people through the sacrament can go and so, so, uterus is not celebrated as a mark of denominational identity. So for example, you can go to a Catholic church or Anglican Church and they will tell you if you are not Catholic or Anglican. You cannot shame comedian for by Costas the Eucharist. is not used to define identity. You don't account for you perish because you have been baptized or confirmed. You can't say the word Dominican, for example, that exists in Costa cobbler. Because then the table is best, whosoever will, may come as long as the shape of Jesus, you can be Catholic, you can be angry, you can be, you can be whatever, you know. So, Pentecostal Eucharist is not so theologically defined that say that they are Catholic, you can pick you can even have and that's why in a Pentecostal church, even an ordinary member what the pastor and take elements, bless it, and comedian so a lot of us celebrate In the Catholic tradition, denomination, for example, saw Pentecost as 10 cannot be limited to one particular theological position. I have met a big Pentecostal Church in Ghana called the lighthouse International. And I thought the pastor about the funnel of Eucharist. He said to me, Well, he says, They say that this is like my body. He said, this is a body. And so for them, the Eucharist is the actual body in Christ. I don't think he knew I was preparing a transubstantiation petition. It didn't matter to him. What I said to him that was that he trickeration this, this the body and blood of Christ, have blessed it to receive strength, power in healing. You received this, what is important for them. So if you look at carefully, you won't have proposition because this not single inhibition takes your logical is a particular center, people acid web flow with the less time and experience. And as I say, I met somebody who felt that God is asking him keep and continue on that particular day, but he is doughnuts, you know, for them, whether we fish or bread or much of them, you know, can bless anything including Coca Cola and return to Smith, as long as the sacrament is having the effect that they want you to have. And people testify how their stomach all set out by taking saccharin and it wasn't led by a Catholic priest. So for panicles us effectiveness, whether it's led by the bishop, Bishop or pastor, whoever is a Christian.
And they celebrated as and when they feel like
Dr. Awesome. Oh god, these are very enlightening responses. Thank you for your time and presence with us. May I close with a question that I've been asking all of the interviewees on this program? And that is this? What would it mean for the church today to be united? How would we as Christians recognize this unity? And what can we do to pursue this Christian unity?
And, of course, the
Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church.
And I think that to overcome our differences, we must always look at things that way. Unfortunately, the gospel has come to us through denominational eyes on for all across the world. We are divided internationally and fortunately, my pen because our friends have been added to it. You know, nobody's done a mission and that certainly has badly divided attention. This is made worse by fact that the worst because of its long history of Christian influence of Western Christians who feel that anything coming from outside the West has question marks about it. And for example, that are many of my brothers and sisters in in in the West, who have started Africa in Ghana cedis zone and, and Western Christians don't the that some of these efforts are authentic. Of course, I'm not saying that everything is perfect. But we must begin by looking at one another through the eyes of Jesus God in Christ does not do see the missions. He sees people who believe in Him and who are in the world to do mission. So I think that we must, we must first and foremost accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have written something on Holy Communion. If you have a little time, I'll just tell you the story behind that. That writing. I wrote that piece because when I was a student many years ago, on the scenario where I teach now Trinity, so the Comerica seminar together, people from across the oceans. So when we left seminary, our colleagues were ordained one after the other. And we attended each other's ordination because we come from different nations. Now when we're students we used to eat together. And in Africa, as you know, a lot of places you don't even eat with color, you put your arm the symbol to eat well, so that we used to do that we buy food that we put in a bowl and eat as friends. Then when we completed school, we found that we couldn't attend the last table in each other's churches. So my the title of that particular article is United States. Lose divide at the loss table, United over meals divided at the last table, why are we able to eat secular food together and not able to eat at the last table together because of the nomination is a question that the world must answer. So, I go for this big international conferences. And when a Catholic priest is offering the communion, he doesn't want to serve others as a color check.
an orthodox blues is celebrating communion, Saturday, Buddha want to attend you know, so, we have nationalized everything to the point where even the world laughs sometimes, you know, so to be able to create proper Christian unity. I am not suggesting that we should dissolve denominations, we cannot desert nominations, but we can begin by looking at each other Through the churches, one Foundation, which is Jesus Christ, hello. And once we do that, we realize that a lot of the barriers that we have said, do not matter to God at all. They may matter to the world, but they not matter to the world. I am not convinced that a Catholic ordination is more authentic than a Methodist ordination. And yet we are not willing to accept each other's ordination. And that I think, if you look at the way the Anglican Communion the worldwide
and can commit struggling, that is out of it, you know, this whole gay lesbian debate in the West,
and then it was on the African agenda at a time that Africans hadn't even thought
you know, look at the effect that is having on communion, why should we be divided on a monitor, on which we can sit down and share ideas and so on. I keep saying We are human before we are religious, and if we are human before we are religious, then we must first of all look at each other, through the eyes of the church while foundation Jesus buys a lot, and all the other pieces, I think will come together.
So that if we stop putting faces on doctrine,
rather than on the, on the foundation, then we will go far. But if we continue to put emphasis on tradition, and what we believe and, and and where we belong, then the facility will continue to exist and we can really function that way. And that's why in many, many places, is clam for example seems overwhelming us because we are too busy trying to drum nationalism, that and the cause of Christ.
It's been our honor today to be speaking with Dr. J. Covina, Samoa Dr. Du Vita, growl professor of African Christianity and painting costal theology at Trinity Theological Seminary and league on Ghana and also author of the text we've been discussing today, contemporary Pentecostal Christianity interpretations from an African context. Dr. Sommer Gatto, thank you so much for your time and and great responses.
Well, it's welcome was my privilege all the best