Ecology and the Pentecostals
I wanted to briefly add a personal note to the sort of concerns Shane is addressing in his comments on Pentecostalism and ecology. Having come from a Fundamentalist soft-Pentecostal/Charismatic background myself, I must admit that though I theoretically knew then that humans should be wise stewards of the earth (based on the creation stories in Genesis), the Christian culture I was associated with simply didn’t cultivate such an ecological ethos which was more concerned about getting as many people to heaven before the world ended.
Reinhard Bonnke, for example, in his book Evangelism by Fire (one of the first popular Christian books I ever read), explicitly stated something like ‘a social gospel is not my concern’, and instead has subtitles like ‘Plundering Hell and Populating Heaven’, with predictable teaching. In the same book, Bonnke, without warrant, spiritualises the biblical teaching of the Jubilee year, and even suggests that biblical and theological books that don’t heat the soul with passion, should be throw on a bonfire so as to at least give of some heat! Here we have a strange mix, it seems to me, of tremendous respect for the Scriptures and awsome spiritual energy along with harmful dualisms and anti-intellectualism. Additional to the doctrine of creation mentioned by Shane, it is also, I believe, an impoverished soteriology that cripples Pentecostal concern for the environment. Few will hear sermons on such passages as e.g. Rom 5, 8:19-23, Col 1:20 or Eph 1:10 in Pentecostal churches.
Once upon a time, in the first years of my Christian faith, it would never have crossed my mind to attempt to assess such Pentecostal ‘men of God’, who, given their success in evangelism with ‘signs and wonders’ following, were clearly beyond serious critique. But again, this is part of the problem of Pentecostal culture - the ‘don’t touch the Lord’s anointed’ factor that is rife at grass roots in the tradition, even if many of their leaders would be ashamed of this.
However, the Pentecostals, and people like Bonnke, do bring to worldwide Christianity plenty that is, I think, valuable: A deep respect for the Scriptures, a passionate expectancy towards God, a delightful focus on ‘personal relationship with Jesus’, a concern for the health of the human body, and more besides. Having to a good extent consciously come out of such a tradition, I sometimes find it all too easy to forget the very real positives.