Original Research

A South African view of Pentecostalism as another response to modernism

Marius Nel
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 1 | a2628 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i1.2628 | © 2020 Marius Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 April 2020 | Published: 26 August 2020

About the author(s)

Marius Nel, Unit for Reformed Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


A popular way used by most sociologists, anthropologists and theologians to define the Pentecostal movement, its origins and growth is by way of the Deprivation Theory, implying that Pentecostalism can be explained in terms of its origins among the poor, marginalised and disenfranchised. However, it is argued that Pentecostal identity was rather formed by its Bible reading practices, its hermeneutics that resulted in its doctrinal understanding of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Full Gospel message and the lifestyle it generated that caused others to convert to Pentecostalism. It is submitted that this was the result of utilising a specific Bible reading method prevalent in holiness circles of the 19th century, which involved reading from a primitivist-restorationist and revivalistic perspective, and also served as the primary cause of the establishment of Pentecostalism and its growth. Individuals were attracted to Pentecostalism not because they were deprived – although many of them were – but with the way they read and interpreted the Bible, the resultant religious quest for Jesus and their enchanted worldview. Deprivation and disorganisation should rather be viewed as facilitating rather than causing its attraction, implying that the popularity of the movement is to be sought somewhere else – in the dynamics of the movement itself. It is concluded that Pentecostalism is a countercultural paramodern movement that defined its praxis-oriented identity and restorationist-primitivist spiritual ethos as a social and spiritual response to modernistic liberalism and Protestant fundamentalist cessationist orthodoxy.


modernism; fundamentalism; restorationism; hermeneutics; cessationism; continuationism.


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