Tag Archives: Experience

Review: Fits, Trances, and Visions

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Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James, by Ann Taves. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Ann Taves, author of Fits, Trances, and Visions, holds a Ph.D. in History of Christianity and American Religion from the University of Chicago. In her book she discusses the religious experiences of fits, trances, visions, etc. in the church from the Enlightenment to the beginning of the twentieth century. Taves discusses these religious experiences using psychology, religion and popular public opinion of the time.

Fits, Trances, and Visions examines the differing views that the church and the scientific community had on the religious experiences that were rising out of the religious revivals of the Enlightenment and later periods. Examples outlining biblical support and opposition as well as scientific support and opposition for these extraordinary experiences are given to the reader for a broad understanding of why some church denominations supported these out-of-body experiences and why some did not.

One example of a conflict that the church was going through, and a major subject of Taves’ book, is enthusiasm versus formalism Many religious leaders of this time were caught in the middle of a debate as to the validity of these religious experiences; leaders included Chauncy, Edwards, and Hume (p. 46). Enthusiasm and formalism were the two extremes of thought that separated the ones who firmly believed in the reality of these supernatural experiences and those who did not. A few specific examples of these experiences would include speaking in tongues, having dreams, seeing visions, and hearing audible voices (p. 18). Some opponents to these religious experiences attributed these manifestations as being the result of scare tactics by preachers, a general excitement of congregations, and even nervous system diseases (p. 121).

Ann Taves brings together the religious views on these experiences as well as the psychological explanations for these experiences in a way that gives the reader an understanding of the cultural view of these experiences and the influence that both science and the church had on their acceptance or disapproval. This work can be used today as a guide to modern questions about religious views of supernatural experiences, their histories, and how they came to be accepted among some religious groups and rejected by others.

Reviewed by Virginia Dyer, Evangel University student

Paperback, 449 pages. $34.95 list price. Order from amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com

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Review: Encountering God at the Altar

Encountering God at the Altar

Encountering God at the Altar: The Sacraments in Pentecostal Worship, by Daniel Tomberlin. Cleveland, TN: Center for Pentecostal Leadership and Care, 2006.

Since the beginning of the Pentecostal movement, experiencing the Spirit of God has been central to Pentecostals in both private and corporate worship. When it comes to congregational worship, Pentecostals have critiqued what they deem to be dead ritualism devoid of a personal experience of the Holy Spirit. As a result, Pentecostals have questioned many traditional practices relating to the sacraments (often viewed as theologically or historically suspect because of their relation to the Roman Catholic Church) and have opted for the term “ordinances” instead. The latter is often seen to be more of a faith-based means rather then a works-based means of experiencing the Spirit.

Daniel Tomberlin, pastor of Bainbridge Church of God (Bainbridge, GA) and chairman of Ministerial Development for the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) in South Georgia, has authored a book that will raise some eyebrows. In it, Tomberlin claims that Pentecostalism and sacramental worship are not mutually exclusive. Rather, he provides a stimulating discussion of how he believes Pentecostal worship is sacramental. This volume, which aims to provide an introduction to the subject for Pentecostal church leaders, is possibly one of the first educational resources of its kind published by a classical Pentecostal denomination.

Encountering God at the Altar touches on topics such as Pentecostal worship and spirituality. Tomberlin develops a Pentecostal theology of the sacraments and also explores the practice of the sacraments in Pentecostal worship.In following Church of God theologian Kenneth Archer, Tomberlin argues for the retrieval of the term sacrament over the term ordinance, claiming that the ordinances are sacramental — a “means of grace” where one encounters the Holy Spirit (p. 24). The author rightly points out that Pentecostal spirituality is centered on encountering the Holy Spirit. “Therefore,” Tomberlin states, “the center and focus of Pentecostal worship is the altar” (p. 19).

When addressing whether life in the church and the sacraments are essential to salvation, Tomberlin identifies the church and sacraments as “secondary salvific gifts,” compared to the Son and Spirit as “primary salvific gifts” from the Father. At the same time he ultimately admits “that participation in the sacramental life of the church may not be absolutely essential to salvation due to God’s prevenient grace” (p. 27). Continue reading

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