- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (March 30, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0470183969
- ISBN-13: 978-0470183960
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,155,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Signs and Wonders: Why Pentecostalism Is the World's Fastest Growing Faith 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on personal experiences and numerous interviews with individuals who practice Pentecostalism, Alexander, who teaches at Azusa Pacific University, attempts to provide insights into why the Pentecostal faith continues to grow by leaps and bounds around the world. He examines such key elements of Pentecostalism as speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy and visions, and spiritual warfare and prayer in arguing that they provide freedom to hope for and experience a better life. Alexander's unfortunately superficial survey would have been strengthened by more attention to historical context. For example, his shallow chapter on the prosperity gospel espoused by many Pentecostals fails to point out the dangers—including fraud—of this version of the Christian message. This highly repetitious book would have been more successful as a short article. (Apr.)
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From the Inside Flap
Recent surveys reveal that ever-increasing numbers of the faithful are attracted to the Pentecostal movement. While in the United States the popularity of this religious movement is strong, the global appeal of Pentecostalism has been nothing short of extraordinary. What accounts for the fact that Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religious movement in the world?
Drawing on Paul Alexander's scholarly work, religious upbringing, and rich personal experience in Guatemala, Venezuela, Mexico, Malta, Palestine/Israel, Belgium, India, and the United States, Signs and Wonders offers a compelling view of the amazing growth and power of the worldwide Pentecostal movement.
As Alexander explains, Pentecostalism is attractive to seekers on many levelsthe lively services, the mystery of tongue talking, the promise of prosperity, and the draw of hope and joy. Pentecostalism is open to prophecy, dreams, and visions. Pentecostals believe that dreams and visions are ways that God can speak directly to human beings. These beliefs hold great appeal for the millions of people who take comfort in hearing God's voice when life gets difficult. Pentecostals live in a world where God is close enough to talk to and can be appealed to for miracles of all kindsfrom curing warts to keeping an eighteen wheeler from crushing a mini-van. The Pentecostal view of prosperity through faith has great allure for those living the American dream and for those who dwell in abject poverty. As one pastor put it "God wants you to prosper. You don't have to wait. You don't have to be tied down by your circumstances."
Signs and Wonders offers a unique view of the Pentecostal movement from Paul Alexander who has been both an insider and an outsider to the faith.
Top customer reviews
I think the comment about this book by Harvey Cox from Harvard Divinity School is exactly right, "When I teach about religion in the current world situation the most frequent question I get asked is, 'But why is Pentecostalism growing so quickly and in so many places?' I try to explain, but after reading this book my answer can now be much more complete and well grounded. This is the book that answers that question. It is fair, accurate, balanced, and written in an accessible style. No one seriously interested in the fastest growing Christian movement in the world can afford to miss it."
I also agree with Martin Marty from the University of Chicago, "I urge the reading of Paul Alexander's 'Signs and Wonders' as the second-best introduction to Pentecostalism, the first being 'being there,' moving as it does between technical subjects made comprehensible and obvious topics rendered subtly."
Finally, a helpful and critical review was written by Gregg Brekke, an editor at the United Church of Christ ([...]). Brekke had this to say, "Rather than a treatise on why you should become a Pentecostal or a defense of fringe religious behaviors, 'Signs and Wonders' is a careful explanation of how some Christians experience Pentecost - what they claim is God's presence through the Holy Spirit in everyday living.
Labels of fanatic, emotional and ecstatic often attributed to Pentecostals don't stick to Alexander or his writing. He is a scholar - and one who has struggled greatly not only with the perceptions and practices of Pentecostalism but with Christianity itself.
Alexander received his PhD in religion from Baylor University. He studied with famed Mennonite pacifist John Howard Yoder and was deeply influenced by the ethical arguments of Stanley Hauerwas. Along the way, he lost his faith in Christianity. For many years he described himself as a "Christian atheist" - ethically drawn to Jesus' teachings, but quite certain God didn't exist...."
I was raised in a Pentecostal church and I know the good and not-so-good (there's plenty of the latter, and Alexander doesn't avoid it at all). It's clear throughout the entire book that Alexander didn't write it to convince people to be Pentecostals, but if you keep an open mind the stories and analysis might stir you.
But, to get back to the book, Alexander puts forth the proposition that hope and healing stories are appealing and you can present your problems to God through prayer, believing your wishes will be granted (p. 16). The program appeals significantly to the working classes , about 60% of this sector participating in glossolalia (p.25). Most practicioners have witnessed at least one miracle (up to resurrection of the dead)and are happy to tell you about it again and again until their savage lust is satisfied. This missionary zeal is evident both on the personal level, main line church infiltration, and on the mass market level in poverty stricken countries. "The Pentecostal prosperity gospel appeals to hungry Christians."
For Harry Potter fans, which the author is seemingly or not, spiritual warfare involves battling and casting out demons, which are apparently ubiquitous. (Don't forget to use the name of Jesus to ease them out the door...)
In a world full of misery, Pentecostals manage to engender hope and worship joyfully (p. 131).
The author wraps up saying Pentecostalism is the freedom to weep, dance, hope, and experience a better life. "No wonder it's contagious" (p. 149).
As with most professors, the author left out demographics. At my job, and sometimes I think I am a social worker, a youngster about one third my age, told me about his girlfriends, and discovering that he already had more children than I did and that he was just getting started, I realized I had been dealt a losing hand in the Darwinian genetic pool.
Thus, I am going to extrapolate, without specific census data, that this group begins breeding earlier and more frequently than its more mainstream counterpart, thus ensuring, after a few decades, it will become a greater percentage of the overall census, just on birthrate data alone.
Alexander's book is interesting in some respects, but, I suspect, it is more a lengthy tract than an objective examination of the subject matter.