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Fire from Heaven


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Harvey Cox, Victor Thomas Professor of Religion at Harvard University, is the author of more than ten books, including The Secular City. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Cox (The Silencing of Leonard Boff, Meyer Stone Bks., 1988) gives an objective view of Pentecostalism. He is neither an insider nor a skeptic. In this study, he includes descriptions of his own experiences and reactions in Pentecostal churches as well as an accurate history of the movement's origins and development. He looks at its rapid growth in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America as well as in the United States. The author finds reason for both hope and misgivings in this popular religious revival and its relationship to late 20th-century society. Cox feels that both science and traditional religion have been rejected by many people as sources of ultimate meaning. He feels Pentecostals have tapped into genuine spiritual energies but warns that "the fire from heaven can burn and destroy as well as purify and inspire." This is a reasoned, dispassionate study; recommended for academic and public libraries.-C. Robert Nixon, MLS, Lafayette, Ind.

Pentecostal Christianity, which emphasizes the immediate experience of God through speaking in tongues, trance and ecstatic bodily motion, is not a backward-looking movement, declares Harvard theologian Cox (The Secular City), but an ecumenical force that speaks to the spiritual emptiness of our time by tapping the core of human religiousness. The author describes his visits to Pentecostal churches from Boston to Rio de Janeiro to Seoul. He delineates the movement's interracial beginnings in Los Angeles at the turn of the century, tracks its lightning spread around the globe and explores the pivotal role of women, which led, he asserts, to a conception of a nonjudgmental God with ``distinctively feminine'' qualities, making Pentecostalism a force challenging patriarchal cultures around the world. Cox expresses his misgivings about ``unattractive political and theological currents'' in the U.S. Pentecostal movement, including a fixation on demonic spirits and a ``dominion theology'' that supports ultraconservative public policy. An engrossing and illuminating report. (Oct.)

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