Reflections on the PAOC booklet, “His Witnesses: Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World”

The PAOC has published another booklet: His Witnesses: Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World (2013). It would be too much to discuss all thirteen essays here, so I offer only a few reflections and highlights.

David Wells (the PAOC general superintendent) expresses the impetus for this timely book: church life has many aspects that can take our focus off of our responsibility to be witnesses and many evangelicals today don’t even think witnessing is of importance (p. 8-9). Too many Christians live as though “all will be saved.” David Wells expresses his concern that such “theological drift will always diminish the ability of God’s people to be His witnesses over time” (p. 11). Who would have thought that theology would have such practical importance? Oh, wait…me. And many others too.

Related to this, a number of the authors emphasize the need to understand our faith if we are to be effective witnesses. Jeromey Martini asks, how can we contextualize the Gospel, without first having a good grasp of the content of the Gospel (esp. p. 108-110)? So also, Murray Cornelius writes, “To enter relationship and dialogue without knowing who we are and what we believe is dangerous.” (p. 39). [see also p. 17, 67-68, 82].  

Another point that stood out to me in a couple of places was that when people from other cultures (or faiths) convert, we have to expect (and allow) that these people might practice their Christianity in ways that differ from our own cultural experience of Christianity. For example, Murray Cornelius suggests (among other things) that believers from a Muslim background “may pray kneeling with their face to the ground and observe opportunities for fasting” (p. 47). Similarly, Kyle Mason challenges readers to appreciate the fact that Christianity among Canadian Aboriginals should have its unique expressions—Aboriginals can “embrace their traditional cultures” as they are “active and healthy disciples of Christ” (p. 88).

A few additional points stood out to me, particularly as they relate to a theology of religions:

  • A challenge to focus on how Christ fulfills religious desires rather than focusing on dichotomies such as exclusivism/inclusivism (Lyman Kulathungam, p. 25).
  • Recognition that other religions might present some truth (Lyman Kulathungam, p. 26). (This is a natural implication of the doctrine of general revelation.)
  • As we encounter others, honor the devotion of people of other faiths (Murray Cornelius, p.  41).
  • We might discover ways that the Spirit is at work in the world as we encounter people from other religions (Michael Wilkinson, p. 73).

While these points may not be what some people are used to hearing about other religions, these perspectives surely represent a more balanced view than those who suppose that every aspect of any other religion is from the devil (so also, p. 26). As you consider the above viewpoints, keep in mind that all of these authors are deeply committed to the supremacy of Christ and to the need for witness.

I close with a quote from Van Johnson’s introduction to the book: “If there is any task that is particularly Pentecostal, it is not speaking in tongues. It is witness…(then quoting Acts 1:8)” (p. 13).

Let us be faithful in witness! Amen.

His Witnesses is available for $3 + shipping from the PAOC head office order desk at 905-542-7400, ext. 3223 or email orderdesk@paoc.org.

3 Comments

  1. Good on you, Andrew! This is the function of a theologian: to thoughtfully reflect upon, interact with, and draw attention to the theological implications of his church’s intentional statements. Kudos to David Wells for initiating this series of books, and to you for taking it seriously.

  2. The book is generally good except for chapter 5 and 7 . These pages present a shift in classical Pentecostal thought and practice. Chapter 7 quotes Amos Yong who in his recent Book “discerning the spirit” offers the reader the opportunity to contemplate some interesting thoughts regarding how we view salvation as it regards other religions.

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