The Pentecostal Doctrine of Initial Evidence: A Study in Hermeneutical Method -- By: Douglas C. Bozung

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 08:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: The Pentecostal Doctrine of Initial Evidence: A Study in Hermeneutical Method
Author: Douglas C. Bozung


The Pentecostal Doctrine of Initial Evidence:
A Study in Hermeneutical Method

Douglas C. Bozung

Coordinator of Missionary Preparation
Greater Europe Mission, Monument, Colorado

The defense of the Pentecostal doctrine of Initial Evidence provides informative insights into the use and abuse of proper hermeneutical method.1 This doctrine maintains that the experience of “speaking in tongues” represents the initial physical evidence of “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”2 In other words, every Christian who experiences the Spirit’s baptism should necessarily demonstrate the reception of that baptism by the act of tongues speaking. Not all Pentecostals subscribe to this perspective today,3 but the doctrine of Initial Evidence along with the doctrine of a subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit form the sine qua non of classical Pentecostalism.4

Pentecostal Gordon Fee observes that historically Pentecostals have not employed a rigorous “scientific” hermeneutic. Rather they have often utilized what he calls “pragmatic hermeneutics”: obeying what they understand should be taken literally and then spiritualizing or allegorizing the rest.5 He also notes that “the Pentecostal tends to exegete his or her experience.”6 That is, a person’s experience provides the framework for subsequent hermeneutical and exegetical treatment of the text. For example, Roger Stronstad states, “In particular, the Pentecostal interpreter, such as myself, brings his or her own experience of being filled with Spirit as a presupposition … and believes that he or she is justified in understanding the experience of the disciples in the light of his or her own similar experience.”7

In recent years, however, Pentecostal scholars have become more responsive to criticism leveled against their distinctive doctrines and the manner in which they are defended. They have sensed the need not only to be hermeneutically sound but also to “rearticulate our theology in a manner, which is relevant to the contemporary context and faithful to the Scriptures.”8

The purpose of this paper is to examine four primary hermeneutical arguments9 used to substant...

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