Baptists and the Holy Spirit: The Contested History with Holiness-Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements.
Few works have the power to be instantly recognized as not only a singular, self-contained work of painstaking scholarship, but also as a potential spark for several future research projects. Weaver's Baptists and the Holy Spirit is one of these few works. Weaver's handle on general Baptist history in the United States is already well documented in his books and articles. In this new work, Weaver draws not only from his knowledge of Baptist history, but also from his interest in the history of Pentecostalism. The result is a wealth of information and analyses regarding the interactions of two of the most explosive religious traditions in American religious history, namely, Baptists and Spirit-filled movements.
The book is divided into three parts. In the first part, Weaver deals with the interactions of Baptists with Holiness groups. Then, he moves on to examine the contacts between Baptists and Pentecostals. Finally, he focuses on exchanges made between Baptists and Charismatics. In all three parts, Weaver makes a few consistent claims regarding the majority stance among Baptists.
Generally speaking, Baptists were cessationists, frowned upon female leadership, were decreasingly prone to adopt the display of emotions generally associated with Spirit-filled movements as Baptists climbed the ladder of social respectability, and were suspicious of the cross-denominational leanings of Spirit-filled movements. However, one can no longer assume that Baptists were only resisting and criticizing Spirit-filled groups. Rather, Weaver demonstrates that there is a significant historical Baptist presence that was thoroughly engaged in accepting, developing, and furthering the creativity brought to the religious marketplace of the United States by Spirit-filled groups. Baptists and the Holy Spirit argues convincingly that there was never a shy member of the Trinity in the history of Baptists in the United States.
Beyond narrating the history of these paramount interactions and their multifaceted influences, Weaver provides a number of other enlightening insights and contributions. One particularly fruitful example is the issue of the place of experience and hermeneutics in Baptist life. Baptists have historically been understood as people who value the role of experience in religious life and who interpret the Bible without the aid of councils or any other authoritative interpretative body. Spirit-filled groups, who share the same qualities, represented a peculiar challenge to Baptists who wanted to affirm the importance of religious experience and to apply broad individualist hermeneutical capabilities without accepting Spirit-filled experiences and/or hermeneutics as legitimate. In addition, Weaver pays significant attention to the role of social class and respectability--aspects that unsurprisingly but importantly influenced the dynamics regarding Baptist relationship with other religious groups--in the acceptance or rejection of Spirit-filled doctrines on the part of Baptists.
Readers interested in Pentecostalism in the United States, Baptist studies, and the history of religious restorationism in America will benefit much from this volume. Weaver gives us a roadmap to begin uncovering additional stories regarding the role Baptists played in the history of the fastest-growing sector of Christianity in the world today: the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement.
J. David Holcomb
Book Review Editor
J. David Holcomb is professor of history and political science, director of the honors program, and coordinator of the London Studies Program at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, 900 College St., Box 8014-A, Belton, TX 76513. (254-295-4184 / email@example.com)
Reviewed by Jodo Chaves, Associate Editor, Perspectivas--The Journal of the Hispanic Theological Initiative