The neglect of Holy Spirit in churches and academia is the voter fraud of theological writing today. Lots of people claim it but its not actually a thing. Pneumatology (the study of Holy Spirit) has a massive niche in popular writing and a solid community in academia. Not only is there study of God the Spirit by Spirit-filled folks, there is now an emerging body of work studying through a fresh Pentecostal lens
You know what we are missing? We are missing a Spirit-inspired systematic theology of the Father.
The Father Heart of God : The 90s Renewal
I came up in the teachings about the Father heart of God in the late 90s and early 00s. There was a rich study of the Father’s love for His people. Anyone remember the Father’s Love Letter? A strange thing happened with all that revelation of the Father’s love. It was never folded into any form of systematic theology. The charismatic revival which started in Toronto never took that revelation and asked themselves, “How should we view the atonement with this revelation? How should we interpret the Old Testament? How should we communicate the nature of God?”
In short, they preached a new revelation of God the Father as a loving father but did not develop a renewal hermeneutic. Most of the leaders came from a Baptist background and never challenged what they learned in their formative years. Instead there were proof texts of Father’s love and little more.
Some major charismatic churches have done a better job folding this view of the Father into their worldview. This has paid off in favor in the form of worldwide itineraries and massive book and album sales. Their theology has been communicated in phrases and messages more so than a statement of belief, but a core value remains that “God is in a good mood.” This was preached at least a dozen years that I know of until the current presidency’s power seemed to be threatened. Then a prophetic message came that God would give President Trump another term because of gender reassignment surgery, those that oppose him oppose God in this “kairos moment,” and they will be likened to Ananias and Sapphira.
I wish I was exaggerating or making this up. The daddy God stuff got thrown out the window.
It would seem that voting for a Democrat is the only thing that upsets God. He was unfazed by the widespread horror of American slavery over several centuries but gender reassignment alone will cause Him to disregard His nature, change His mood, and punish those that oppose President Trump.
The Theological Train Wreck We Are Left With
What this has exposed is essentially twofold. (1) Popular charismatic Christianity has no systematic theology. At best it possesses an ethic of relativism based on its current priorities. There simply has not been the work of theology to try to understand what God was doing in the 90s, form a comprehensive hermeneutic that takes that into account, and apply it with integrity to all aspects of the relationship between God, human, and the Bible. (2) There has been no renewal inspired Paterology. That is, a doctrine of God the Father as revealed by the move of Holy Spirit in the 90s. We have a desire for an all-loving God who acts as a good father but we are currently unwilling to give up our right to condemn, judge, or get self-righteous. In the words of Carlos Rodriguez, we are unwilling to “drop the stones.”
Why are we here? Why have the revivals of the 90s and 00s not produced real theology and real theologians? Why has it not birthed bible colleges and doctrinal fellowships? Great question.
My working theory is that the charismatic revivals had a message but were really centered on the messengers. The signs pointed to the messengers rather than to the message of love the Father was trying to tell. It wasn’t ideas that traveled the world as much as the people who taught those ideas and those who could replicate their signs and wonders.
Eventually the message was not important, just the charisms displayed which validated the workers who carried them. The message of the Father became an afterthought. When the spiritual sons of the next generation began to rise and challenge old notions of the judgmental Father and oppressive patristic structures they were canceled.
History Repeats Itself
There is a reason that most of these leaders set themselves up as singular “apostolic leaders” instead of restoring the early church model of five-fold ministry (see Acts 13:1). There is a reason that none of the leaders of the moves of the 90s and 00s have given up the reigns of the works they began to the next generation. Oh, some have hired managers, but they still lead the movements.
I don’t claim to know anyone’s heart. But I do know that the church desperately needs real prophetic preaching that comes from the hard work of a trained mind formed in part from the critical feedback of other trained minds that see the inconsistencies and errors of an intellectual silo. When their power was threatened they rebuilt the house of their fathers.
This has not been the easiest season for me. Relearning what we thought we already knew is humbling and a little scary. People have insulted me, questioned my salvation, in the midst of it I am more encouraged than ever and I hope to encourage a generation of believers who will unashamedly preach the real Gospel, about the real Jesus.