Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hermeneutical Philosophies for Interpreting Narrative Literature Part 6 - Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

      Another area of differentiation is the baptism in the Holy Spirit; between those who deem it as a necessity of salvation and those who believe it to be a post-conversion adventure. The latter being the pentecostal view, and the former being the cessationist view. James Dunn adroitly explains the Pentecostal understanding of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the following points:
  1. Pentecostals relate baptism in the Holy Spirit to the experience of the disciples on Pentecost.
  2. Those who experienced the event were already saved.
  3. Baptism in the Holy Spirit was subsequent to Christian conversion.
  4. All Christians should be baptized in the Holy Spirit post-conversion (Dunn 1970, 38).

It is the position of the Pentecostal that these dogmas are consistent with the biblical narratives. Their modern-day parallel would have Christians experiencing a post-conversion experience with the Holy Spirit. Dunn supposes the bases of the Pentecostal theology are found in John 13:10, 15:3, 20:22 and Luke 10:20 (Dunn 1970, 38). But by Dunn's own description, Pentecostals associate themselves with the day of Pentecost. Thus forming a theology around an event using solely scripture before the event took place was ludicrous. If one wants to relate the day of Pentecost to the modern Christian experience one would depend almost entirely on the post-pentecostal narrative. Since only one post-pentecostal narrative exists in the scriptures, it stands to reason that Pentecostals would depend primarily on this account. This is the case and to establish a post-conversion, post-pentecostal theology we must look to depend primarily on the Lucan narrative. With this in mind, let us examine Dunn's characteristics of the pentecostal understanding of baptism of the Holy Spirit using the principles of repetition and early reader perception.

Principle of Repetition of Spirit Baptism

Seeking the principle of repetition for a post-conversion Spirit baptism is simple in that the process occurs throughout the text but problematic as it is under peculiar circumstances. There are several famous occasions when believers experience a subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8, 19), and the fact that Luke is so purposeful in repeating it gives cause for attention. Some have suggested that those within the narrative were not Christians at all, and these chapters are tales of salvation. One must wonder why if these unfortunates were damned the apostles merely laid hands upon them, an action generally reserved for anointing for gifts and office (Acts 6:6, 1 Tim 4:14), instead of sharing the Gospel. The obvious answer is that they were believers who did not know of the Holy Spirit and their error was an insufficient presentation of God's designs. One single reference would be insufficient to establish such a case, but a repeated incident implies a case for normative. This is compounded when we realize that the disciples were saved before Pentecost. Jesus' soteriology is based entirely around His person and work on the Cross, and gives no hint that baptism of the Holy Sprit equates to salvation. The Lucan references to Jesus discussing the Holy Spirit speak in terms of empowerment for the Great Commission. The disciples themselves, therefore, had a salvific experience prior to Pentecost, and Acts 2 could easily be added to the list of post-conversion Spirit baptisms. By the principle of repetition we can conclude that Luke intended post-conversion Spirit baptisms to be normative.

Early Readers Perception of Spirit Baptism

The early church does not provide us with a wealth of material on the subject, but scant references establish a practice of post-conversion baptism in the Holy Spirit. The church fathers rarely use the term "Spirit baptism" but sporadic inferences establish post-conversion theology. A few theologians analogized the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ and concluded the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at the convert's baptism. Ambrose believed salvation occurred at water baptism, and baptism of the Spirit was synonymous with baptism (Schaff 1896, 99). But this theology did not arise from biblical grounds and is largely because of the early church's belief that a water baptism and Spirit baptism should be initiated by a Bishop, and owing to their scarcity, combined the sacraments for the sake of the Bishop's schedule (Ratzinger 1994, 326-327) The preponderance of references to a post-conversion baptism of the Holy Spirit is that it is induced by the laying on of hands (Roberts 2007, 415) (Roberts 1886, 669). The basic premise of the Pentecostal view of Spirit baptism, that one may receive later effusions of the Spirit post-conversion, can be clearly traced in Christian history to what later became the sacrament of confirmation in the Western churches (Synan 1997, x).
God Love You -- Rev. Sheen


Dunn, James D. G., Baptism in the Holy Spirit, An Examination of the New Testament Teach on the Gift of the Spirit in relation to Pentecostalism today, SCM Press LTD, London, UK, 1970.

Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume X, The Christian Literature Company, New York, NY, 1896.

Imprimi Potest, Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO, 1994.

Roberts, Rev. Alexander, and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Translations of The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Christian Literature Company, Buffalo, 1886.

Synan, Vinson. The Holiness–Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1997.

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