Date of Graduation

Spring 2008


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Schmalzbauer


In its beginnings as a radical and charismatic movement on the fringes of conservative Protestantism, American Pentecostalism's prospects for intellectual growth appeared rather bleak. Born with a revivalist ethos that emphasized supernatural experience, biblical literalism, and a millenarian temperament, the movement's beliefs and practices often conflicted with society's dominant definition of intellectualism. However, as the twentieth century unfolded, American Pentecostalism experienced a series of transformations that gradually enhanced its scholastic potential. Using both cultural and socio-historical methodologies, I am able to identify change in four distinct, yet interdependent categories: the movement's dispositions toward the mind, its perspectives on higher education, its relationship with American society, and its members' socioeconomic status. Prompted by these historical changes, American Pentecostals today are making notable contributions to fields such as theology, church history, and biblical studies. In an effort to decipher this recent intellectual emergence, I sent out a reputation survey to 140 Pentecostal scholars around the United States and followed up through personal interviews with the thirteen individuals whose names were listed most frequently by their peers. What I discovered was a nascent intellectual subculture comprised of elaborate networks, diverse methodologies, and creative scholarship. Yet, amidst this vibrancy lies a hesitation and timidity engendered by the stigmas of the past.


Pentecostalism, intellectualism, scholarship, academics, education

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© Jonathan William Olson

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