Fire from Heaven: Pentecostals in the Secular City

in Pneuma
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Is Harvey Cox’s Fire from Heaven which focused on Pentecostalism merely a mea culpa for the hubris of predicting the death of God in the 1960s or a case of using the “pentecostalization” of religions to describe the shape of religiosity in the emerging global civil society, global secular city? This essay shows how theologically liberal ideas in both his Fire from Heaven and Secular City are today used to theologize the relevant shape of faith in the global civil society in ways that hauntingly suggest Pentecostalism is implicated in the emergence and working of the global secular city which reject notions of transcendence in religion. The essay then challenges pentecostal theologians to seriously consider the question: In what way is Pentecostalism already secularized or secularizing from its core?

Fire from Heaven: Pentecostals in the Secular City

in Pneuma




Max WeberThe Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons1958) 182.


Harvey CoxFire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley1995) 81-83.


See Amos YongDiscerning the Spirit(s): A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press2000) 18-20.


CoxFire from Heaven81.


See CoxSecular City93-95 154-55.


CoxFire from Heaven218-19.


CoxSecular City197-98 228-29.


Harvey CoxThe Future of Faith (New York: HarperCollins2009) 2-3 (emphasis in the original).


CoxFire from Heaven17 58 61 99-100 260 297.


CoxFire from Heaven297.


Ernesto LaclauOn Populist Reason (New York: Verso2005) 244; quoted in Mark Lewis Taylor The Theological and the Political: On the Weight of the World (Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press 2011) 127.


Amos N. Wilder“Art and Theological Meaning,” in The New Orpheus: Essays toward a Christian Poeticed. N. A. Scott (New York: Sheed and Ward1964) 407; quoted in Cox Secular City 228.


TaylorThe Theological23.


CoxSecular City52-55.


CoxFire from Heaven81.


CoxSecular City93-95 154-55.


CoxReligion in the Secular City137-38 148 176-78.


TaylorThe Theologicalxii. This is not the time and place to critically engage Taylor on his distinction between theology and “the theological.” His concept of the theological refers in one crucial sense to the kind of discourse that facilitates and is in service of creating sociopolitical structures that create sustain and promote human flourishing. And its basic orientation is anti-institutionalism and resistance to transcendence. In very broad terms Taylor and Cox follow an anti-institutional approach to theology and even the presence of God that leaves out the Church that can be seen — as theologians like William Cavanaugh have done — as the political structure designed to create sustain and promote human flourishing. See William Cavanaugh Torture and Eucharist: Theology Politics and the Body of Christ (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers 1998).


Donald Miller and Tetsunao YamamoriGlobal Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press2007).


CoxReligion in the Secular City268.


Gustavo GutiérrezA Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books1973) 66-68 224-25.

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