Marvin offers a review of Allan Anderson’s book on global pentecostalism that really makes me want to read it. The essence of charismatic Christianity, according to Anderson (according to Marvin) isn’t speaking in tongues or some of the other trappings usually associated with pentecostalism, but rather “A shared conviction that the Holy Spirit can and should be experienced immediately and powerfully.”
I’ve often complained that mainline Protestant Christianity lacks an emphasis on “transcendence” or the direct experience of the Spirit. The usual reasons offered are that mainliners have accepted the worldview of modernity, which doesn’t leave much room for direct experience of the supernatural, and are overly focused on social and political change at the expense of experiential religion. There do seem to be some signs of change here. For instance, in The Heart of Christianity, Marcus Borg writes about his own mystical experiences and about the importance of spiritual practices and the “thin places” where the Spirit seems to pierce the veil of natural causality. And in his view, this isn’t opposed to, but goes hand-in-hand with, a focus on social justice.
Overall though, it does seem that, for mainliners, direct experience of the Spirit, whether in its more charismatic or mystical forms, isn’t something we’re comfortable talking about, much less encouraging. How would we go about changing that?
(See also my earlier post on Krister Stendahl and speaking in tongues.)