Original Research

African Pentecostal spirituality as a mystical tradition: How regaining its roots could benefit Pentecostals

Marius Nel
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 4 | a5904 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.5904 | © 2020 Marius Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 November 2019 | Published: 23 June 2020

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Marius Nel, Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


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Abstract

Western academic theology do not succeed in accounting for the identity and faith culture of African Pentecostals for at least two reasons. In the first place, because as part of the Pentecostal movement it grew from the holiness, divine healing and revivalist movement that went back to Pietism and emphasised a holistic effective spirituality, and secondly, because it links with the holistic tradition of African traditional religions and worldview that share some aspects of the Old Testament realist way of thinking. African Pentecostalism needs another language to describe its unique way of doing theology in direct conjunction with spirituality. It is argued that the language of the time-honoured practice of mysticism is suitable for explaining its spirituality. Theology and spirituality should mutually inform and constitute each other, as emphasised in mystical theology, for Pentecostal theology to be a valid reflection and meditation on the experience of consciousness of the involvement of God. African Pentecostals will benefit by learning from this ancient tradition by using concepts of mystical theology to find words to state the unsayable. The article closes by asking what the language of mysticism would entail for Pentecostals. Several aspects that define Pentecostal spirituality demonstrate their relation with mystical theology, such as a separate experience of sanctification, an acknowledgement of affections in expressing religious sentiments, a different way of interpreting and participating in reality, ecstatic speech and a continual emphasis on a personal, experiential encounter with the Spirit of God.

Keywords

Pentecostalism; African Pentecostalism; mystical theology; encounter; spirituality

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