Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 8th, 2017 by Joel Watts

pentecostals and lex orandi

Can you imagine anyone refuting lex orandi? Surely, we must turn to the Pentecostal/Charismatic side of Christianity to see such a refutation. But….

In their concept of doctrine, Pentecostals stand closer to the Roman Catholic idea of the development of doctrine than the Protestant understanding of doctrines as the unchangeable deposit of faith.8 Formative in this understanding is the link between the authority of spirituality and the authority of doctrine (lex orandi, lex credendi).9 Pentecostals can speak of spirituality as doctrine by locating the starting point for all doctrine in the human response to God. The response in immediate testimonies, visions, songs, tongues, or prayers is initially pre-cognitive, affective, and behavioural, or to put it differently, therapeutic and prophetic.10 From there, a more articulate, scrutinized, and deliberative formulation of doctrine, such as creeds, dogmas, and official teachings are generally not attempted by Pentecostals. Nonetheless, most Pentecostals readily embrace formal articulations of doctrine from other traditions if these reflect their own spirituality and experiences.1


8 Cf. Simon Chan, ‘The Church and the Development of Doctrine’, JPT 13, no. 1 (2004), pp. 57–77.

9 See Christopher A. Stephenson, ‘The Rule of Spirituality and the Rule of Doctrine: A Necessary Relationship in Theological Method’, JPT 15, no. 1 (2006), pp. 83–105.

10 See Jean-Daniel Plüss, Therapeutic and Prophetic Narratives in Worship: A Hermeneutic Study of Testimony and Visions (Bern: Peter Lang, 1988).

  1.  Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostalism (A Guide for the Perplexed; London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013), 72.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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