Voices of Pentecost: Testimonies of Lives Touched by the Holy Spirit, by Vinson Synan. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 2003.
Images of the Holy Spirit and Pentecostalism have historically been associated with that of the ministries of William J. Seymour, Charles Parham, and the Azusa Street Revival. These revivals recorded the emergence of glossalalia to the Church and became widely acknowledged as the beginnings of Pentecost. While Seymour, Parham, and Azusa Street demonstrated the overflow of the Spirit upon the 20th century, they alone are simply a portion of the Pentecostal movement which has spread throughout history in a variety of avenues. Within Vinson Synan’s, Voices of Pentecost, a sampling of firsthand accounts of the charismatic movement is provided, addressing lesser-known personages and denominations to Pentecostalism. Faiths including Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Methodism are included with their spiritual lineage and unique Pentecostal perspective.
Synan approaches this historical overview by submitting 2-3 page testimonies or eyewitness accounts of various men and women who have influenced Pentecostalism. At the very beginning of the work, Synan breaks the traditional mold to present a spiritual event within the Catholic account of St. Augustine and his eyewitness description of spiritual prayer. Synan continues his collection with other renowned names including Billy Graham, Pope John Paul II, St. Francis of Assisi, and Charles Finney while incorporating many lesser known names. Even foreign spiritual encounters such as the revival within the Methodist Episcopal Church of Chile in 1909 are retold in the testimonies of its participants. This collection spans hundreds of years to create a vivid representation of Pentecostal history.
Included with the individual epithets are theological principles that have helped shape the Pentecostal church. For instance, descriptions of miraculous healings, unification of the races, missions inspiration, along with traditional church prayers and protocol are included. Personal descriptions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit create a tangible image of this most holy gift. The ease at which Synan writes is exceptional, and his emphasis upon primary sources are quite useful in painting a stunning image of each account.
For the benefit of those familiar with the Pentecostal historical timeline, a chronological system would have offered a more systematic layout for this book. It is important to note the significance of pre-Azusa street Pentecostal encounters such as John Wesley (1703-1791), Charles Finney (1792-1875), and Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924), which would differ greatly from modern-day contributors like Mark Rutland, Pat Robertson, etc.
In an age of scarce historical acknowledgement, Synan’s work, Voices of Pentecost, contributes a much needed overview of the major contributors to the Pentecostal movement. The readability and intrigue of this work makes it accessible to audiences of various ages with the assurance of building faith. It is a significant contribution to the Church to have all these testimonies collected in one solitary place.
Reviewed by Krista Ridley, Evangel University student