Review: The Challenges of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Messianic Jewish Movements

Hocken, Peter The Challenges of the Pentecostal, Charismatic
and Messianic Jewish Movements

Ashgate: Cornwell, England, © 2009

Reviewed by Daniel Juster

Anyone not familiar with Monsignor Dr. Peter Hocken and his writings would do well to pursue them. They are insightful, show great depth, well thought out and well .written. Hocken is an English Roman Catholic Priest-Theologian who began his early ministry teaching theology in England. He was touched by the renewal movement in the Catholic Church and spent almost 20 years in the United States in one of the Catholic charismatic communities that flourished from the 1970s to the 2000s. His interest in the unity of the Church propelled him to connect widely to different streams in the Body of the Messiah, with special emphasis on the Pentecostal and the Charismatic Movements. He befriended leaders in these denominations and leaders in charismatic streams. He was even elected the President of the Society of Pentecostal Studies. Subsequently he became the General Secretary of the same organization. Finally, in the mid 1990s, Hocken gained an understanding of the Messianic Jewish movement and embraced it as something of great importance. As part of this experience, Hocken became a founding member of the Toward Jerusalem Council II project (TJCII) The purpose of TJCII is to see the churches in all streams repent for their historic sins against Jews and Messianic Jews and to embrace the Messianic Jewish movement. A significant chapter of his book is devoted to this effort. In addition, Hocken was a founding member of the Messianic Jewish and Catholic dialogue that takes place annually either in Rome, Vienna, or Jerusalem.

The present small, but expensive, book comes from his depth of experience
in study and visiting communities representing his interests. The title reflects the fact that Hocken thinks that these three movements pose a challenge to the Church as a whole and in all of its expressions. However, Hocken not only challenges the Church with the implications of these movements, but also challenges these movements with their own limitations.

The Pentecostal Movement is expressed in several key denominations, including the Assembly of God, the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Church of God, Cleveland, Tenn., and the Church of God in Christ (the African American denomination, which is the largest Pentecostal denomination in America). Some Pentecostals do not like to call their associations denominations, but all are really denominations in my view, as they have clear doctrinal standards, governmental structures, ordination standards and tithe structures in some cases. The Pentecostal Movement is over one hundred years old. Hocken gives a very strong presentation of the history, challenges, and tensions, including the negative issues of racism, sectarianism, and arrogance against the previous denominations and streams. However, in the experience known as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the expression of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, these movements gave birth to powerful movements that are today impacting the world in unprecedented numbers. Indeed, in the majority world (that used to be called the third world) the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements by far are the most important and growing segments of Protestant Christianity. As noted in Philip Jenken’s, The Next Christendom, quoted by Hocken, they are now the majority of Protestant Christians in the world.1

The challenge of the Pentecostal Movement to the denominations is several-fold. This includes their vibrancy, flexibility, evangelistic zeal, and supernatural demonstration of the power of God, especially outside of Western context. Lives are transformed by connection to these movements. However, the challenge to these movements is in their embrace of Enlightenment individualism, their separation from the rest of the Church world, and their need for greater depth in historical rootedness. The arrogance of new movements is in a replacement orientation that says, implicitly, if not explicitly, of the old movements and churches, “We have replaced you.” Hocken traces this to the churches’ rejection of the Jewish people and the Messianic Jewish community of the early centuries of the Common Era.

The Charismatic Movement was expressed in two different sub-movements. One was a movement within historic churches. The other was expressed in starting new streams of churches, either independent, or linked in new networks. Hocken includes the Vineyard Movement and the New Apostolic Movements as part of the Charismatic Movement. These movements are also growing rapidly in many parts of the world. They show greater flexibility than the Pentecostal Movement from which they started. There is a link between them. The same positive challenges come from the Charismatic Movement as from the Pentecostal Movement: a real personal encounter with Yeshua and the power of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, flexibility in responding to ministry situations, and empowerment for evangelism and church growth. These movements show essential biblical truths that need to be recovered in the older denominations and structures that are necessary to the progress of the Church: empowerment in the Spirit, renewal, and the gifts of the Spirit. They are not mere cultural phenomena. Aspects of these movements are cultural, but these movements also reflect normative restorations of biblical truth.

Hocken also calls attention to the movements that embrace the place of apostolic and prophetic leadership as a key to church networks. (Eph 4:16ff). This is expressed in vastly different ways from those who hold to the importance of the functions, to those who recognize offices and titles. Some of the Pentecostal streams rejected the ongoing reality of apostles and prophets for today and limit these functions to the first century. Some give apostles an almost total authority in their movements, whereas others include more checks and balances with other leaders (a plurality in leadership government). Hocken mentions that the restoration of apostles and prophets brings charismatics into patterns closer to the historic churches that recognize bishops, for apostles serve in part as bishops. I could wish that Hocken said more about fusion or confluence movements that are connecting the apostolic and prophetic restoration to a more sacramental and historic church orientation and to the place of overseeing bishops as part of the meaning of the apostolic gift. Hocken challenges these movements for their independence, an overly free enterprise entrepreneurial model of local churches and church streams, and their lack of historic rooting. This of course is not the case of charismatic movements in the historic churches, which in the Western World have declined, but are still very strong in the majority world. The lack of rooting in historic liturgy and sacramental depth is one major challenge to these movements. Such lack of rooting tends toward error and deficiency in wisdom. Yet, somehow Hocken sees these movements as part of what has to be joined to produce the kind of Church in unity and power for which Yeshua prayed (John 17:21).

The last movement described is the Messianic Jewish Movement. This section is the weakest in historical description and detail, yet no less profound for this lack. Hocken’s perception of the Messianic Jewish movement in the present is, in my view, amazingly accurate. He has touched the movements especially in America, Israel, and among Russian speakers.

As with the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Hocken sees the Messianic Jewish Movement as ordained of God and a challenge to the whole Church. Also parallel, Hocken has some challenges to bring the Messianic Jewish Movement. He sees the Messianic Movement as having three foci. One is the Jews in mostly gentile churches who yet identify themselves as Jews and want to connect in some significant way to that identity. The second is Messianic Jews in traditional synagogues, a small group, but Hocken knows of some of these individuals. The last is the Messianic Jews in Messianic congregations. This last is his emphasis because they are in Hocken’s view the prophetic cutting edge. This is where the visible challenge to the Church is most pointed. Hocken notes that the Messianic Movement was largely given birth from the Evangelical-Charismatic movement and has taken on some of its characteristics.

The challenge to the Church consists in several points. The first challenge is to the self-identity of the Church itself. Is the Church something that grows out of and is linked to Israel? This question leads the Church to the deepest self-reflection on its institutional anti-Semitism sometimes found in its midst, along with supercessionism or replacement theology (i.e., the Church has replaced ethnic Israel or embodies the ongoing meaning of Israel). As the new Catholic Catechism strongly affirms, the Jewish people are still elect or chosen; they have an irrevocable calling. Thus such anti-Semitism is extremely grievous and calls for continued humility and much repentance. The Church is a reality organically linked to the Jewish people. Such an understanding presses the Church to reinterpret its theology in greater connection to the Jewish context of the Scriptures. In addition, the Messianic Jewish Movement challenges the Church to be in right relationship to Jewish disciples of Yeshua. Through most of Church history, Jewish life in Yeshua was precluded. This also was serious sin and the Messianic Jewish Movement now challenges the Church to reevaluate this and to see the enriching dimension brought by the existence of the Messianic Jewish Community. Such matters as the importance of the earth, the inheritance of the Land, the linkage of the incarnation of Yeshua to the concrete realities of redemption on earth are important challenges. Hocken notes an eschatological challenge in that most Messianic Jews are pre-millennial. He points to the theology of Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon in the second century and the legitimacy of such a position as one option. Hocken seeks some bridge between the historic churches and the millennial views of Messianic Jews by showing the truth of the assertion of the redemption of this earth.

Messianic Jews challenge the Church with its own roots, but the historic churches may also have challenges for Messianic Jews. Some of the orientations from the independent Evangelicals and Charismatic people are unhelpful, including the individualism that leads to the view of a congregation as a voluntary collection of individuals and not a Body. In addition, each congregation is seen as an independent collection in some Messianic Jewish circles. This is much more from the 18th century Enlightenment than from the Scriptures! Both historic Judaism and Christianity provide a more organic way of understanding the Church and its structures of government. Without greater organic unity, mutual accountability and government, it is difficult for the larger Church bodies to relate to the Messianic Jewish Movement. The Messianic Jewish Movement needs to embrace that which is good in its evangelical roots but also to transcend those roots for a deeper understanding and greater organic connectedness.

Hocken’s great desire is to see the unity of the Church as emphasized in the prayer of Yeshua in John 17. This is part of the preparation of the Second Coming, and this is a great emphasis in Hocken’s theology. How can there be unity with the Messianic Jews, Charismatics, Pentecostals and the Historic Churches? Each provides challenges to the others and is challenged by the others. In listening dialogues we can transcend our separation from one another, overcome our limited perspectives, deepen one another and eventually find a way forward into unity without losing distinctive emphases and purposes. This is the hope of this small but great book. The hope is that addressing these challenges will lead us ever closer to the Second Coming. <

Rabbi Daniel Juster, Th. D., serves as Director of Tikkun International.

1. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).