Eastern forms of Christianity are being mined as possible sources for deepening and renewing Pentecostal-Charismatic theology, particularly its pneumatology. While applauding these efforts, this article suggests that such strategies are myopically focused on Eastern Orthodoxy while ignoring the riches of Oriental Orthodoxy, the Coptic Orthodox legacy in particular. By providing comparative accounts of Coptic practices of the charismata with the author’s experience within the neo-charismatic milieu, the essay surveys points of contact to heighten interest and underscore potential avenues of pneumatic inquiry.
Pentecostalism and Charismaticism, here grouped together as the Pentecostal–Charismatic (hereafter pc) movement, resist sharp demarcations, etiologies, and definitions. Although the taxonomies and definitions vary, suffice it to say that the pc movement places a strong emphasis on ‘an ecstatic experience of the Spirit and a tangible practice of spiritual gifts’.1 To be sure, the pc movement is not limited to certain denominations but is descriptive of a global phenomenon that has impacted free churches as well as the older Apostolic traditions.2 Concomitant with the growth and rise of pentecostalized Christianities, some pc scholars have increasingly sought to connect their theology to the patristic foundation. Part of this project has been what could be called an Apostolic turn, that is, a form of ressourcement or ‘return to the sources’3 with an eye sensitized to the pentecostal experience in ancient texts. This Apostolic turn has included a growing awareness of Orthodoxy’s theological richness and critique of the Western pneumatological tradition. In specifically theological terms, this has meant a re-consideration of the rubric of divinization (theosis),4 deeper suspicions about the validity of the filioque clause, and a deeper consideration of both pc and Orthodox ontologies, epistemologies, and anthropologies.
Within their own historical contexts, the one informed by Greek ontology, and the other informed by North American existentialism, these two traditions emphasize a personal encounter with God that not only does not find the mystical-existential manifestations embarrassing, both see them as normal and necessary.6
The Orthodox do not believe that the charismata of the Spirit have ceased being present or irrupting on to the plane of human existence (though, like the Catholics, the Orthodox believe that the Spirit’s activity occurs primarily, but not exclusively, within a sacramental structure).7
While brilliantly uncovering the distinctive theological and philosophical foundations for these practices, he nonetheless, by focusing on the ‘primarily’ without much attention to the Spirit’s activities outside of the sacramental structure, effectively represents eo as a tradition that does not exercise the same charismata as the pc. One could also argue that ‘sacramental structure’ is actually more of an inclusive phrase rather than exclusive, because, in Orthodoxy, all of creation is sacramentalized through the Incarnation. Regardless, one is hard-pressed to find in Rybarczyk eo examples of glossolalia, prophecy, healing, and exorcism – charismata routinely found and exercised within pc communities.
Stories circulated of how, on many an occasion, elder Paisios was seen in two places at the same time, a phenomenon known as ‘bilocation.’ He was also reputed to have been able to speak to a group of French pilgrims in their own tongue when he had no knowledge of French, to have healed people from incurable illnesses, and to have miraculously appeared in places of accidents to rescue people. When asked to confirm these rumors, elder Paisios denied everything and claimed that all those miraculous happenings that people attributed to him were in fact performed by the Holy Spirit.9
Within the Cross I had placed a small piece of Saint Arsenios’s remains, given to me by old Paisios as a talisman. The moment I touched the Cross the woman started screaming and hurling insults. She had spasms and kept screaming ‘Don’t touch that, don’t touch that, you are burning me!’ Keeping my hands on the Cross, I approached her while the others restrained her and I began to pray. The poor woman calmed down and finally came to her senses. Embarrassed, she looked around and apologized to me. She could not remember exactly what she was saying before. ‘Was she cured?’ Stephanos asked inquisitively. At that point the unclean spirit left her because it was ‘burned’ by the cross. The woman experienced relief. But you know, in cases such as these, it is not that easy to induce a demon to leave the individual permanently. It required much more work until she was finally cured of the demonic energy that had overtaken her. Without the power of the Cross she would not have been healed.10
Elsewhere in the text Markides narrates prophetic visions and other signs and wonders. In the ‘Author’s Note’, he points out that none other than Bishop Kallistos Ware, the West’s foremost interpreter of Orthodoxy (and frequent authority in Rybarczyk’s work), reviewed an early draft of his book. Taken prima facie these testimonies,11 then, are not just fringe practices of superstitious Cypriots – a theological equivalent to a cargo cult – but, rather, are representative indicators that complexify Orthodoxy’s charismatic experience in existential terms pc scholars may find interesting.
Some scholars have used Orthodoxy’s critique of the filioque clause12 (often together with an inquiry into theosis) as a starting point for pneumatological reflection. Clark Pinnock goes as far to say, ‘the filioque promotes Christomonism … [and] diminishes the role of the Spirit and gives the impression that he has no mission of his own’.13 Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen states: ‘The Eastern tradition pays more attention to the Holy Spirit both in the doctrine of salvation and in ecclesiology’.14 He goes on to intimate that this is possibly a result of the filioque addition by Augustine. Dale Coulter, too, begins his work on the affections and the Spirit by reviewing the impact the clause has had on Western theology.15 Arguably, all of pc scholarship supports the eo critique,16 namely, that the Western tradition is pneumatologically deficient, hence the exigency for their writing and raison d’être.
However, this Apostolic turn continues to be plagued by some rather alarming deficiencies. As intimated, there is a rather limited focus on theology over and above practice, especially in regard to the miraculous charismata. Comparative analyses of Orthodox miracle testimonies and pc ones are virtually non-existent; there are just too few pc scholars working with interdisciplinary methods among the various types of Orthodoxy. When Orthodox charismatic claims are explored, they tend to be from the distant past. For example, Stanley Burgess’ The Holy Spirit in Eastern Church Traditions rarely goes past the 6th century.17 Although he draws out many of the parallels between their spirituality and Pentecostalism’s, including a ‘strong expectation of the supernatural’18 and daily awareness of the Spirit’s presence,19 Burgess limits his treatment of each theologian to a miraculous highlight reel more than an extensive analysis. Thus, he is apt to reference healing miracles, exorcisms, and other experiential aspects of their lives and work without a great deal of commentary or context, and, again firmly planted in the distant past. However, the main deficiency I would like to highlight in this essay is that for all intents and purposes, most Orthodox-friendly pc theologians completely ignore Oriental Orthodoxy (OO) as a contemporary dialogue partner.20
This vacuum is due to a number of factors. First of all, oo theology is often construed as monophysite, non-Chalcedonian and therefore ‘heretical’, although there is no essential justification for why pc Christians must appropriate a certain number of theological features of some Councils as opposed to others.21 Perhaps this neglect is extended in a genetic fallacy sort of fashion; since its Christology is suspect, everything else may be ‘tainted’. Secondly, Wesley, arguably a grandfather of the pc movement, perhaps began the trend of appropriating eo theology rather than oo due to the accessibility of sources during his time.22 Thirdly, perhaps eo theology rather than oo theology has enjoyed a renaissance among pc scholars because of its accessibility and other historical contingencies. Many of the Greek and subsequent Latin fathers have been translated and enshrined in academic and theological circles thanks to Roman Catholic/Anglican efforts, especially those in the early twentieth century. Another possibility for the neglect of Oriental theology in Evangelical and pc circles is its un-systematized nature. Unlike Eastern Orthodoxy which has a strong Russian, Greek, and Bulgarian tradition of systemization, Oriental Orthodox theologians have had less attention. Many of their sources for theological reflection are embedded in a lived spirituality comprised of stories, koan-like parables, anecdotes, and the like rather than systematic treatises. oo has no Thomas Aquinas, John Zizioulas, Kallistos Ware, or Georges Florovsky. Oddly enough, one would think these genres would be more attractive to pc scholars since there is a similar value placed on orality, testimony, and narrative in the pc literature. Finally, perhaps, too, being largely ‘African’, ‘Oriental’, supposedly heretical, and a minority, oo theology has simply been overlooked in mainline Evangelical and pc theological reflection for many of the same reasons it took the academe so long to recognize Pentecostalism itself.23
As perhaps the largest and most influential of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church serves as my proxy for oo praxis and theology in this essay. Through it, I seek to outline points of contact between contemporary Coptic and my own pneumatic experiences, in keeping with the existential orientations of both. In the process, I will offer comparisons, contrasts, and assessments rooted in a pc framework, broadly speaking. Given the situatedness of experience, my own engagement with pc Christianity arises out of deep and influential contact with the New Apostolic Reformation, mediated primarily through my training with Catch the Fire (formerly Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship), Redding, California’s Bethel Church, and the International House of Prayer-Kansas City.24 For this article, I will refer to this personal-particularized context simply as ‘Active Renewalist’ or ar for short, with the caveat that ar is not meant to substitute for other scholarly attempts at defining ‘Pentecostal’ or ‘charismatic’ or ‘Renewalist’. Nor is the use of the term ‘active’ intended to indicate a passivity on other traditions, but, rather call attention to this stream’s emphasis on lay praxis of the charismata in various contexts beyond the church. It does, however, represent contact with and ‘family resemblance’ to those semantic domains and historical trajectories. Since one of my goals here is to raise pc scholarship’s consciousness concerning the Coptic tradition, my engagement with the coc is based on scholarly and popular resources interpreted through my own three years’ worth of fieldwork among diasporic Copts in Kuwait with exploratory visits to monasteries in Egypt. Nonetheless, my own engagement as an ar Christian with the coc necessarily influences my selections and interpretations. Further, these types of accounts and comparisons invite a much-needed reflexivity when it comes to further pneumatological constructions that seek patristic grounding without the Platonic pitfalls intrinsic within eo.25 For purposes of exigency and space, this essay will restrict its focus to the charismata of exorcism/deliverance, healing, and prophecy. As for glossolalia, whether in its corporate manifestations or in private practice, has, to my knowledge no Coptic parallel, it will not be included. Strictly speaking, then, this is not a work of comparative theology, but, rather of comparative praxis, following more of a practical theological approach keyed to ar Christianity’s own emphases on the phenomenology of Spirit. Finally, in keeping with the Apostolic and intercultural turns, I hope to direct, primarily through Coptic praxis, attention to the possibility that the non-Chalcedonian traditions need deeper engagement.26 At its most basic level, this essay seeks to provide points of ecumenical contact between traditions in a critical fashion.
2 Charismatic Comparisons of Praxis
2.1 ar Exorcism
The charismatic gift of the discernment of spirits is often linked to the practice of exorcism or the expulsion of evil/demonic presences from a place, object, or person. Within ar communities, the practice of exorcism is part of a larger process that frequently includes inner healing at a psychological and emotional level. The biblical metaphor often employed for this practice is the Gadarene demoniac who, after Jesus exorcizes him, is ‘seated at the feet of Jesus’ (right worship), ‘clothed’, (physical restoration and emotional healing from shame) and ‘in his right mind’ (mentally restored). An emblematic training program for would-be exorcists within some neo-Charismatic27 communities is called Sozo training,28 from the Greek word for healing/therapy. Based upon principles promulgated by inner healing specialist, Agnes Sanford29 in her landmark work, The Healing Light (1947) and refined by Argentine Pablo Bottari,30 believers are encouraged to regularly self-sozo and to receive from trained Sozo teams annually. Again, following similar ideas as Charles Kraft’s ‘rats in the garbage’, it is assumed one can ‘pick’ up demonic influence/presences by living in a fallen world or through bitterness, anger, lust, etc. When one gets rid of the garbage (the inner issues, sins, or ‘generational curses’), the ‘rats’ (demons) also depart.31 This departure often includes and is associated with bodily functions such as sneezing, belching, vomiting, coughing,32 or even flatulence. While the more theatrical manifestations of demonization33 are rare in Sozo sessions, they do occur.
Aside from the widely available and practiced Sozo and other deliverance programs within the ar milieu, exorcism has played and continues to play a key role in pc Christianity historically and globally, especially in the Majority World/Global South.34 Generally speaking, the exorcism involves an ‘anointed’ minister who commands the entity to leave the person. Sometimes this happens instantaneously without manifestations, sometimes it is a process that involves the peculiar and typical demonic phenomena mentioned above.
2.2 Coptic Exorcism
Against this backdrop, then, the coc practices exorcism quite differently. Like ar Christians, they also have a fully-developed spiritual warfare weltanschauung that undergirds the practice. Moreover, the exorcist must have learned how to have victory over the devil himself35 before bringing victory to others. Thus, there is a high degree of spiritual maturity expected of him. Exorcism, then, occurs in several contexts: during the rite of baptism, as needed, and during annual mulids, or saints’ feasts/pilgrimage.
Like the Roman Catholic baptismal rite, the coc’s rite includes an exorcism of the catechumen. This occurs after the absolution and involves anointing with oil and a prayer that drives away ‘magic, witchcraft, and idolatry’.36 According to Franc, this exorcism is meant to be permanent and ends with ‘To be forever freed of evil’.37 Thus, unlike membership in ar churches where baptism and exorcism (if there is any) are often divorced from each other, every baptized member of the coc has been officially ‘exorcized’. Nonetheless, the practice of exorcism is not limited to the baptismal rite.
Another context in which exorcism occurs is within the liturgical framework of worship and as a sign of the truth of the Coptic faith.38 Here, it comes under the rubric of general healing. Franc reports that exorcisms are held ‘every Friday from 17.30 to 20.30 in the old Cathedral of St. Mark’.39 Perhaps the most famous contemporary exorcist of the coc is Abuna (Our father) Makary,40 who also exorcises Muslims.41 In the video footage, one sees the priest/bishop stand in front of the demonized42 while, typically, the victim is physically restrained by friends. The exorcist approaches the demonized with his hand-held cross while repeating, ‘By the Blood and by the Cross’, and while asking the demonized, ‘Who is the Christ?’ in hopes of a confession.43 Holy water is sometimes employed. If the footage is accurate, these exorcisms are performed within the church, with singing in the background, and done in less than thirty minutes. If unedited, one exorcism takes less than four minutes. Disturbingly, the victim often stares wide eye with anger or confusion and screams ‘No!’ at the exorcist. At the conclusion of the rite, the person’s face frequently takes a completely different cast and embraces the priest in gratitude. The long-term effectiveness or even conversionary power of such exorcisms is, to this researcher, unknown.44
to be of a tangible nature; therefore, they have to leave the body through some opening. Often the demon chooses to depart through the eyes, which is believed to result in blindness. So as to prevent this and force the demon to leave from the part of the body furthest from the eyes, the priest or someone standing by makes a small cut in the big toe, which causes some minor bleeding.48
Although this may have been what Meinardus witnessed, these practices are not evident in the more recent video footage where physical contact is limited to the sprinkling of holy water, a touch of cross, or an embrace following the rite.
2.3 ar Healing
Physical and mental healing has long been a part of the Christian faith and is often closely linked to exorcism.49 Ramsey MacMullen noted years ago that among the reasons Christianity spread as quickly as it did was due to its emphasis on healing.50 Jesus’ own ministry attests to this practice, as does the Apostolic tradition. For ar Christians, healing is a major emphasis in teaching and practice. It is considered to be the sign par excellence for the in-breaking of the Kingdom. Drawing on the earlier classic Pentecostal understanding of healing and wholeness procured, like salvation, through the atonement, healing for ar Christians is often considered for everyone, everywhere, anytime. In fact, for some, healing is not an option but a dominical command. Thus, just as every believer is obliged to carry out evangelism, he/she is also commanded to pray for the sick. This may occur with the laying on of the hands of the elders according to James’ prescription, during congregational prayer, or even in the marketplace or ‘out in the streets’. Thus, ar Christians are encouraged in various ways and with changing emphases to pray for the sick as they are out and about, at work, shopping, everywhere.51 Sometimes this may overlap with deliverance/exorcism, but the majority of testimonies are of physical, mental, or emotional healing rather than just freedom from demonic oppression. Thus, contrary to the rather privatized Sozo sessions where sins are confessed and demonic ties cut, healing is very public and out in the open. As intimated, the public nature of healing is further reinforced through testimonies.52
2.4 Coptic Healing
But, in a matter of a few minutes, I heard them making the ululations, the sounds that Arabic women make when they are filled with joy. I heard the tongue-rolling cries of excitement that rippled from their mouths. The two women were now crying out to everyone in the middle of the church that their sister could hear – that she who had been deaf was now able to hear them and to understand the words they were speaking to her! At that, everyone began to applaud, to sing, to praise God, or to ululate.59
A jolt of heat surged through Samia’s chest, Samia shouted, the Virgin grabbed her right hand. After waking up, Samia discovered her clothes bloodied and her chest unscarred, fully intact: She had been miraculously healed. The lump of clotted tissue on her chest, later identified as the culprit tumor itself, was the ultimate sign of saintly triumph.61
In keeping with the public nature of the miraculous, pictures of her ‘blood-soaked white sweater, her gauze bandages marked with bloody crosses, even the congregate of the tumors in a glass jar of formaldehyde’ are available for inspection.62 Thus, healing in a variety of forms and through a variety of means is part and parcel of Coptic Orthodox pneumatic piety.
2.5 ar Prophecy
Prophecy among ar Christians is often summed up as hearing what God is saying and then saying it to a person or to a group of people. ar leaders are quick to put boundaries on this divine-human-human communication.63 These boundaries are in keeping with Paul’s admonition that prophecy is for ‘edification, encouragement, and comfort’.64 Further, a well-known aphorism often heard at prophetic training workshops is that you should not prophesy ‘dates, mates, jobs, or babies’. Such trainings thus downplay the predictive aspect of biblical prophecy. Moreover, many members are further trained to couch prophecy in ‘I think’, ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’ language – notes of humility that the Copts would also appreciate. In sum, prophecy in the ar framework is fairly pedestrian and inclusive of uplifting conversations. A distinction, however, must be made in that ‘accurate’ prophecy correlates in a surprising way with the hearer to produce a ‘How did you know?’ or ‘You just read my mail!’ effect. Further distinctions could also be drawn between the average believer’s practice of prophecy and the official/unofficial prophets of the ar stream like Bob Jones, Paul Cain, John Paul Jackson, Rich Joyner, Shawn Bolz, Bobby Conner, Kim Clement, and others. These prophets are putatively at a higher level where the moratorium on negative words and predictions are lifted as the Prophet is supposedly spiritually mature enough to communicate such things lovingly.
2.6 Coptic Prophecy
Prophecy in the coc is less pedestrian, and, historically, the line between prophecy and possession is often blurred. Like ar Christians, Copts, too, recognize that prophecy can occur through possession or contact with spirits other than the Holy Spirit. Fairly early, Coptic Orthodox traveled to saints’ shrines to practice ‘incubation’. Echoing earlier pagan practices, the pilgrim spent the night near the saint’s relics or in the sanctuary hoping to procure some form of interaction in a dream. It was hotly debated ‘whether such a voice would have to be intrinsically demonic … Are they dead martyrs or demons?’65 If not from the saint, pilgrims would seek direction from monks with what Macarius referred to as a ‘spirit of divination’: ‘the demon of falsehood [and a certain monk with this demon] would tell people about numerous events that were going to happen to them: he would say ‘they will happen’, and they happened … ’66 Therefore, historically speaking, Old Testament-like ‘seers’ were part of the landscape and the Copts recognized that just because something is spiritual and even accurate, it does not mean it is from the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps the main context in which prophecy does occur for the average Copt, in ways that an ar Christian might find recognizable, is in confession to the priest. Unlike Roman Catholic confession, the coc does it face-to-face. There are numerous accounts of the priest offering advice based on a ‘word of knowledge’ that he could not have possibly known. Copts refer to this consistent ability as the gift of sight; some priests have it and others do not. The former, as one can imagine, are frequently sought out.
3 Analysis and Critique
We believe the Bible to contain all that is necessary to salvation, and we do not consider the Apocrypha as a part of Scripture. We do not believe in Purgatory, or in the power of any human being to grant absolution. All that the priest can do is to pray for the sinner. In short, the principal differences between our church and yours [the Anglican Communion] are that we believe the Holy Spirit to proceed from the Father alone, that we rely on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and of the saints, and that we have monasteries and nunneries.67
Surely some of the Pope’s comments were rhetorical flourish, but he does help locate the coc in global Christianity between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, his placement of monasteries and nunneries at the very end of his comments suggests he sees them as one of the lesser differences between the two communions. This is contrary to early Protestant missionaries who took particular aim at monasticism, seeing it ‘devoid of “function”’.68 Additionally, Protestant missions to the region have historically criticized the coc as superstitious, ignorant, and backward partly due to its earlier reliance on blind teachers (‘arifs) and the lack of texts in their educational systems.69
Although many ar Christians, often by default, fall into the Protestant Evangelical category, there is nothing inherent within the ar movement that demands it uphold all the Protestant Reformation’s emphases or subsequent Protestant missionaries’ ‘mistakes’. More importantly, many Renewalist Charismatic movements have actually stayed within the traditional churches, preferring to see the Spirit’s movement in terms of ‘new life’ instead of instigating schism. Therefore, an ar critique of contemporary Coptic practice is one that seeks to uphold the non-absolutized nature of a given theological context and to stimulate reflection on practices where Holy Spirit engagement is uneven or under-represented.70
given to Saints of God solely at God’s good will and God’s action, and not by the will of men and not by one’s own power. They are given unexpectedly, extremely rarely, in cases of extreme need, by God’s wondrous providence, and not just at random.73
It is little wonder, then, within this context that the charismata concerned are restricted, to say the least – despite a participatory pneumatology. This is particularly salient in light of the fact that theosis is mainly concerned with growing in virtue rather than increasing charismatic manifestations.
Philoxenus [6th century Syriac] believes that in the apostolic era the prophetic charisms manifested themselves in all the believers at their initiation. This constitutes the apostolic model. He notes the discrepancy between the apostolic church and the church he knows. The difference is a matter of regret, but he is not going to bring God to court for swindling … Charisms, like contemplation, belong at the end of years of ascetic discipline.77
Several points need to be made. It seems as though the ‘monastization’ of the charisms occurred fairly early and has continued within the coc to the present.78 Further, it is evident that this is not the nt model. Thus, a contextualized re-consideration of the charismata in the life of the coc must address this discrepancy and posit the nt model as authoritative. Further, in the nt, prophecy is ranked higher than the other spoken charisms79 and was, as seen above, the most often expected manifestation at Christian initiation.80 Additionally, as indicated before, there is little evidence that prophecy in the ar sense is practiced by the laity in the coc. Thus, it will serve as the keystone of my critique.
To be palatable for Copts, any reframing of the popular usage of prophecy must take place within already valued categories that constitute their pneumatic piety. The first category highly valued by Copts is prayer. Much of Coptic spirituality centers on the practice and often involves saints, relics, icons, biblical passages, and, most importantly, other people. Prophecy, as is often practiced among ar Christians, takes place within the context of group prayer. In fact, ‘Can I pray for you?’ frequently means both intercession and an expectation of divine communication. As one prays to God, in the Holy Spirit, for someone else, prophecy ‘bubbles’ up. It can, and usually does, interweave various Scriptural passages together to create a personalized sermon of sorts for the person being prayed for. Moreover, in such a construal, foretelling is out of bounds. In a Coptic context, a priest and others standing by can judge the words of the one praying, again, according to the apostolic model.81 Secondly, a key part of Coptic worship and prayer is musical chant. Extending prophetic ministry through chanting interspersed as part of the liturgy may also be practical option.
Pursue love, desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy … he who prophesies builds up the church. I wish all of you spoke in other languages, but even more that you prophesied … For you can all prophesy, one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged.84
Prophecy, thus situated, is an expression of love, not a non-Orthodox innovation akin to spiritism or New Age channeling, as some Orthodox have argued.85 Appropriately reframed within love and prayer and according to the nt model, lay prophecy can now be embraced meaningfully within a Coptic context and supported by their pneumatic piety.
With increased connectivity and globalization, some pc scholars are looking East for theological renewal. In this process, they are encountering traditions that are at once startling different and yet familiar. Yet, to date, these encounters have, for the most part, been textually based and/or still Greek and Russian Orthodox. Lived African contributions like the Coptic Orthodox Church are less examined.
This essay has outlined three significant points of contact mediated through the ar off-shoot of the Pentecostal movement to pique the interest of pc scholarship in general. Given the pneumatic emphasis of pc Christianity on the spiritual gifts, I looked specifically at deliverance/exorcism, healing, and prophecy – hoping that my readers can identify with one or all at intellectual and experiential levels. Followed by a brief analysis and critique, I offered some possible ways in which ecumenical dialogue can proceed, albeit unidirectionally. With the remaining space left, I would like to briefly offer some ways in which, like Eastern Orthodoxy, the coc can serve as a critique.
There are numerous aspects of this brief survey of Coptic praxis that can helpfully illuminate pc theology. One primary way it does so is by interculturally enriching current pc scholarship. It does this by gesturing towards those areas of pc theology that pc simply taken on the same pneumatological, ecclesiological, and soteriological deficiencies endemic in the Western tradition. More to the point, this investigation calls pc theologians to reconsider the relationship between the gifts of the Spirit and sanctification, partly because it seems to me that both eo and oo see the gifts and sanctification more holistically. But, perhaps just as importantly, Coptic Orthodoxy complicates Western Protestant conceptions of the nature of authority, egalitarianism, and sacramentality. Speculatively, is it possible that Coptic Orthodoxy has, in fact, preserved the pneumatology of the early church more fully than Restorationist heirs claim to have re-discovered? Lastly, the crucial role the living monastic tradition plays in the lives of Copts leads one to wonder about how such forms of communal living serve to preserve and transmit a robust spirituality. Perhaps future pc experiments in intentional living can benefit from the Coptic experience. It was, after all, the communal, monastic-like Moravians who inspired Wesley.
Things are changing. Some Copts are moving West and bringing their faith with them. As second-generation immigrants, many Copts only speak English, necessitating more and more translations of their texts. The works of pivotal figures like Tawadros Malaty, Matthew Al-Meskeen, and Pope Shenouda are now easily accessible and available online, providing rich resources for theological dialogue. In the past it was perhaps excusable for theologians to overlook the tradition given its linguistic and cultural distance but not so anymore. But there is more that the coc can teach pc scholars than the multitudinous ways in which the Spirit operates. Coptic Orthodoxy’s 1500-year survival embedded in Islamic hegemony should elicit greater respect for its ability to transmit the faith from one generation to the next and its ability to stay largely intact without schism.
But all is not roses; pc Christians in Egypt face many problems from the coc. In fact, Pentecostalism has almost as long a history in Egypt as it does in the United States. The earliest accounts tell of a recently Spirit-baptized Egyptian, Ghali Hana, carrying the Pentecostal experience to Assiyut, Egypt.86 He had received Spirit baptism at the hands of Lucy Leatherman, who had received hers at Azusa, as early as 1906. Another missionary, Charles Leonard, joined the work in Assiyut in 1911 and Cairo in 1912. Other Pentecostal missionaries quickly followed: George and Lydia Brelsford, Sarah Smith, Frank Moll (1909), Ansel and Henrietta Post, Lillian Thrasher (1910), and Herbert Randall (1912).87 This admixture of Western missionaries and ‘new’ spirituality was then and continues to be problematic for the conservative coc. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church that quickly enfolded charismatic renewal, the coc still treats it with suspicion and even outright persecution. Perhaps, then, greater appreciation for the Spirit’s work from both sides would go a long way in bringing about healing and reconciliation. But, for that to occur, more studies such as this that provide representative, albeit incomplete, sketches need to take place.
Allan Anderson, To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 8. Emphasis in the original.
While there are explicitly Pentecostal congregations such as the Assemblies of God, there is also the Catholic Charismatic Renewal within the Roman Catholic Church as well.
‘Apostolic’ refers both to the Apostles of the New Testament and to the churches that maintain Apostolic succession. Ressourcement properly refers to the renewal movement within the mid-twentieth century Catholic Church, associated with Nouvelle Théologie.
‘Rubric’ because ‘doctrine’ implies more of a developed system that is somewhat alien to the holistic approach in Orthodox theology.
Edmund J. Rybarczyk, Beyond Salvation: Eastern Orthodoxy and Classical Pentecostalism on Becoming Like Christ (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2006).
Rybarczyk, Beyond, pp. 349–50.
Rybarczyk, Beyond, p. 110.
That Markides’ text was published in 2002 and Rybarczyk’s in 2004 allows room for this type of speculation.
Kyriacos C. Markides, The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality (New York: Random House: 2002), p. 92.
Markides, Mountain, p. 111.
Testimonies being a favorite source of phenomenological reflection for pc Christians as well.
Orthodox see it as an erroneous addition that de-emphasizes the work and person of the Holy Spirit. From this pneumatological mistake, it maintains, all sorts of theological errors arose in the West. See also Otto Meinardus, ‘Coptic Orthodox Inculturation in the West’, Coptic Church Review 18.3 (Fall 1997), p. 73.
Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996), Kindle locations 3248–55.
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2002), p. 12.
Dale Coulter, The Spirit, the Affections, and the Christian Tradition (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2016). See also Coulter’s ‘Surprised by Sacraments’, First Things, Posted November 21, 2013, http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/11/surprised-by-sacraments (Accessed November 3, 2019).
In modern times, this critique came through Russian Orthodox theologians like Vladimir Lossky.
And this is despite the fact the title is Eastern Christian Traditions without chronological qualifications.
Stanley M. Burgess, The Holy Spirit: Eastern Christian Traditions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1989), p. 140.
Burgess, Eastern Christian, p. 144.
The exception here is Wolfgang Vondey’s account in Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostalism and Christian Unity: Continuing and Building Relationships (vol. 2; Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2013), where reports on the status of Pentecostal/Coptic dialogue. In it, he describes the dialogue as part of the Joint Consultative Group’s meeting with Coptic leaders in 2005. Oriental Orthodoxy includes: the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (present-day Turkey and elsewhere), the Armenian Apostolic Church, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches, and the Malankara Church of India.
Oneness Pentecostals are a case in point. Further, work on Cyril of Alexandria, a saint in rc, oo, and eo traditions, has sought to tease out some of the finer points of agreement between Christologies. Cf. Hans van Loon, The Dyophysite Christology of Cyril of Alexandria (Boston: Brill, 2009).
Cf. Randy Maddox, ‘John Wesley and Eastern Orthodoxy: Influences, Convergences, and Differences’, Asbury Theological Journal 45.2 (1990).
The author could not find any extensive comparisons between Oriental and Eastern Orthodox theology from a third-party viewpoint. The closest comparison of the two centers on their conceptualizations of divinization by Russian Orthodox theologian Ivan Popov, see Ivan V. Popov, ‘The Idea of Deification in the Early Eastern Church’, in Vladimir Kharlamov (ed.), Theosis: Volume 2: Deification in Christian Theology (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2012).
I am using nar following Lee et al., usage not in direct linkage to C. Peter Wagner’s coinage. See Margaret M. Poloma, Matthew T. Lee, and Stephen G. Post, The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God’s Love (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). Although the term is associated with ‘neocharismatic’, I prefer my own ‘Active Renewalist’ phrase to describe my particularized experience in both domestic and overseas contexts.
The Platonism of eo is one of the major bases of critique in Rybarczyk’s appraisal.
My upcoming essay will examine Coptic Orthodoxy’s miaphysitic, Stoic, and Jewish roots that can serve as a corrective to the idealism that is entangled with recent pc appropriations of eo theology. Such a correction has the potential to reframe the psychophysical dualism that has ontically plagued much of Christian theology.
Again, I will largely rely on my personal experiences within the ar milieu for phenomenological descriptions rather than Classical Pentecostalism.
‘Sozo: Saved Healed Delivered’, Bethel Sozo. It should also be noted that Classic Pentecostal exorcisms may be more ‘dramatic’ and involve the repetition of apotropaic phrases like ‘In Jesus’ Name!’ over and over again or even conversations with the demon. Interestingly, such practices are expressly identified and discouraged by L. Grant McClung Jr, ‘Exorcism’, in Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. van der Maas (eds.), The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), Kindle locations 25866–905.
Peter Hocken, ‘Sanford, Agnes Mary’, in Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. van der Maas (eds.), The New International of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), Kindle location 43223.
For the impact and influence of Bottari, cf. Gunther-Brown, Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing Candy Gunther Brown, Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 22 n. 6, pp. 22, 215: ‘Pablo Bottari … through speaking at international conferences and publication of a how-to book, Libres en Cristo: La Importancia del Ministerio de Liberación, translated into English and marketed as Free In Christ: Your Compete Handbook on the Ministry of Deliverance (2000), has reshaped the deliverance practices of pentecostals globally’. (p. 215).
‘In deep-level healing, we get to cast out lots of demons. But we recognize that demons are like rats. And rats go for “garbage.” “Garbage” is the term I use to refer to the spiritual or emotional problems to which demons attach themselves.’ Charles H. Kraft, Deep Wounds, Deep Healing: An Introduction to Deep-Level Healing (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2010), p. 22.
Cf. McClung, ‘Exorcism’, Kindle location 25885.
These would include other voices, clairvoyance, superhuman strength, impossible physical contortions, and even the production of animals or material objects from the person’s body. For a description of strange phenomena accompanying an exorcism, see James Robinson, Divine Healing: The Formative Years: 1830–1890 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011), Kindle location 3237.
Ancillary to my own experience, I have also relied on Allan Anderson, To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Candy Gunther Brown, Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Steven Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (Cleveland, TN: cpt Press, 2010); Amos Yong The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2005); and Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press, 1995).
I use the masculine pronoun because the majority of exorcists in the coc are male, following Franc’s observation: ‘[E]xorcism is the domain of the patriarchs, bishops and priests’. From Jaroslav Franc, ‘The Tradition of Exorcism in the Coptic Orthodox Church: Remarks on Contemporary Practice’, Studia Theologica 14.4 (2012), p. 165 n. 13.
Franc, ‘Tradition of Exorcism’, p. 162.
Franc, ‘Tradition of Exorcism’, p. 163.
‘The only true miracles are Christian ones, because the only true God is the Christian God’. Anthony Shenoda. ‘The Politics of Faith: On Faith, Skepticism, and Miracles among Coptic Christians in Egypt’, Journal of Anthropology 77.4 (December 2012), p. 491.
Franc, ‘The Tradition of Exorcism’, p. 166 n. 18.
He is the official exorcist of St. Mark’s in Cairo, is married, and has three daughters. See Franc, ‘The Tradition of Exorcism in the Coptic Orthodox Church: Remarks on Contemporary Practice’. Moreover, just as Egyptians’ social media aptitude was evidenced during the Arab Spring, so, too, Copts use social media, websites, and other new media to promote their church and heroes. See Father Makary’s website: http://www.fathermakary.net/. It is also important to note that Abuna Makary seems to be exceptional rather than emblematic of the Coptic Orthodox clergy’s dealings with demons. This, too, will be a part of my fieldwork but my current contacts in Egypt all locate him as an exemplar for exorcism and healing in the coc.
‘Muslims Turn to Coptic Priest for Exorcism (Part 3)’, YouTube video, 7:30, Posted by ‘Nolan Rogers 2’, 8 August 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohg5NDRk5bw (Accessed November 3, 2019).
I prefer to use demonized rather than ‘possession’ as the latter term is fraught with difficulties and is a poorer translation of the nt Greek daimonizomai. This is consciously contra to Craig Keener who uses ‘possession’ since it is commonly understood. Cf. Keener’s discussion about the problematic nature of the term, see Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Ada, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), Kindle location 54127 n. 2.
Sometimes the priest may seek power over the demon by asking the demon’s name. Cf. Otto F.A. Meinardus, Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1999). Kindle Locations 2103–23.
One YouTube clip interviews a German man who was exorcised by Makary. He and a friend both testify to the efficacy of the rite but despite Makary’s best efforts, the exorcism does not effect a conversion. Cf. Marzouk, Ramses. ‘Healing Power, the Film About Father Yunan Makary (3)’, YouTube, 2007, https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2wm2e7 (Accessed October 21, 2019).
Meinardus, Two Thousand Years, Kindle location 2029.
Meinardus, Two Thousand Years, Kindle locations 5306–308.
Meinardus, Two Thousand Years, Kindle locations 5306–308 and cf. Kindle locations 2123–41.
Meinardus, Two Thousand Years, Kindle locations 2127–30.
A number of Jesus’ own miracles of physical healing were the results of exorcisms. For a longer discussion on the various types of healing and its issues within a pc milieu, cf. Ronald A.N. Kydd, ‘Healing in the Christian Church’, in Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. van der Maas (eds.), The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), Kindle locations 28837–9440.
The other primary factors for its spread, according to MacMullen, were charity to the poor and exorcism. See Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire: a.d. 100–400 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986).
One popular text for ar Christians of the 21st century after John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Evangelism (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), is Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005).
Bethel Church even has an app that updates regularly with healing testimonies.
Anthony Shenoda, ‘The Politics of Faith: On Faith, Skepticism, and Miracles among Coptic Christians in Egypt’, Journal of Anthropology 77.4 (December 2012), p. 478.
Yassa Abd Al-Masih and Martiniano Roncaglia. ‘Introduction to the Faith and Practices of the Coptic Church’, Klio 49, p. 372. It should also be noted that ar communities have their own forms of liturgies; the contrast here is mainly between high church contexts done by priests and low church, laicized forms.
Marzouk, ‘Healing Power’.
Meinardus, Two Thousand Years, Kindle locations 2077–80.
Meinardus, Two Thousand Years, Kindle Locations 2081–87, provides a glimpse:
“After the reading of certain Old and New Testament passages and the offering of supplications, the priest reads the biography of Abu Tarbu (Therapon), followed by the recitation of several psalms. Then the priest assembles seven children, who join hands and go around in a circle seven times while saying a prayer. After this, one of these children asks for healing and health from God and from Abu Tarbu. The priest then holds out a piece of unleavened bread, and this child takes it in his mouth. The priest then takes the piece of bread out of the child’s mouth and places it in the lap of the one the dog has bitten. The same procedure is followed with the other six children. Then the sick person receives the pieces of bread to eat, together with some water and wine, and the priest anoints him with oil over which prayers have been said.”
Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty, Dictionary of Church Terms (trans. Dr. Nora El-Agamy; Alexandria, Egypt: St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Church Sporting, 1992), p. 91. See also Yassa’ Abd Al-masih and Martiniano Roncaglia, ‘Introduction to the Faith and Practices of the Coptic Church’, Klio 49, p. 377.
Mark Gruber, Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times among the Desert Fathers (Mary knoll, NY: Orbis, 2002), pp. 174–75.
Angie Heo, ‘The Bodily Threat of Miracles: Security, Sacramentality, and the Egyptian Politics of Public Order’, American Ethnologist 40.1, p. 149.
Heo, ‘Bodily Threat’, p. 152.
Heo, ‘Bodily Threat’, p. 152.
These practices and insights were taken from Mike Bickle, Growing in the Prophetic (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2008); Steve Thompson, You May All Prophesy (Moravian Falls, NC: MorningStar Publications, 2005). And from Kris Vallotton, Basic Training for the Prophetic Ministry (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2007). Also, for over 15 years, I have been involved in international prophetic ministry and practice as well as teach these principles and concepts in various ar contexts.
1 Corinthians 14.3.
David Frankfurter, ‘Where the Spirits Dwell: Possession, Christianization, and Saints’ Shrines in Late Antiquity’, Harvard Theological Review 103.01 (2010), p. 31.
Macarius qtd. in Frankfurter, ‘Where the Spirits’, pp. 31–32.
Quoted in Paul Sedra. From Mission to Modernity: Evangelicals, Reformers, and Education in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (Library of Middle East History; New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011), p. 121.
Sedra, Mission to Modernity, p. 49.
Sedra, Mission to Modernity, p. 1.
Walter Hollenweger, ‘Intercultural Theology’, in Jan A.B. Jongeneel et al., (eds.), Intercultural Perceptions and Prospects of World Christianity (Frankfurt: Peter Lang AG, 2010), p. 35. For me, prophecy is severely under-represented.
Father Athanasius Iskander, Practical Spirituality According to the Desert Fathers (Kitchner, Ontario, Canada: Saint Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, 2005), Kindle location 90.
Iskander, Practical Spirituality, Kindle location 69.
Qtd in Fr. Seraphim Rose, ‘Charismatic Revival as a Sign of the Times’, The St. Jacob Baradaeus Orthodox Christian Fellowship, http://returntoorthodoxy.com/charismatic-revival-sign-times-seraphim-rose/ (Accessed November 3, 2019).
Kilian McDonnell and George T. Montague, Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1994), pp. 288–89.
McDonnell and Montague, Christian Initiation, p. 330.
McDonnell and Montague, Christian Initiation, p. 325.
McDonnell and Montague, Christian Initiation, pp. 324–25.
This may be a clue as to why ‘folk’ religion has flourished among the Copts.
1 Corinthians 14.1.
Since Copts practice infant baptism, prophecy at initiation does not seem to be possible and other contexts must be identified – perhaps during group prayer meetings or at the mulids.
1 Corinthians 14.29.
Vondey, Pentecostalism and Christian Unity, p. 64.
McDonnell and Montague, Christian Initiation, pp. 288–89.
1 Corinthians 14.1, 4b, 5, 31.
Cf. Rose, ‘Charismatic Revival as a Sign of the Times’.
Allan Anderson, Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism (Mary knoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007), p. 155.
Anderson, Spreading, pp. 155–57; Tarwat Nagib ‘The Neo-Charismatic Movement in Egypt’, in Vinson Synan, Amos Yong, J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu (eds), Global Renewal Christianity Spirit-Empowered Movements: Past, Present and Future (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2016), p. 96.