Original Research

Rather Spirit-filled than learned! Pentecostalism's tradition of anti-intellectualism and Pentecostal theological scholarship

Marius Nel
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 37, No 1 | a1533 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v37i1.1533 | © 2016 Marius Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 September 2015 | Published: 25 May 2016

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Marius Nel, Research Unit, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa

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The beginnings and first half-century of South African Pentecostalism are characterised by a tradition of anti-intellectualism consisting of a rejection of theological training, a critical and negative attitude towards theologians, and criticism of the academic world in general. This led to Pentecostals being seen as outsiders without a theological tradition or any contribution to be made to the theological world, or even any interest in developing and formulating a theological structure that can compare or contrast with other theological structures. The historical phenomenon of anti-intellectualism is described in terms of its complicated motivation and nature before the rise of Pentecostal theological scholarship is investigated in terms of its historical development and nature. The article closes with some remarks about the future of Pentecostal theological scholarship.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article reflects a historical survey of attitudes within the South African Pentecostal churches towards academic endeavours and theological reflection, showing how it changed from anti-intellectualism toward a more positive attitude with certain reservations and allowing for the development of Pentecostal scholarship. For historical reasons South African tertiary education has been closed for Pentecostal scholarship, although the situation will be changing in the near future because of the Pentecostal influence.

Keywords: Anti-intellectualism; Pentecostalism; scholarship; theological training


Anti-intellectualism, Pentecostalism, scholarship, theological training


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