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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: James Railey
Aug. 4, 2013

A Century’s Perspective

James Railey has extensive experience as a senior and associate pastor in North Carolina, Florida and Alabama. While on the faculty of Southeastern University (Assemblies of God) for 11 years, he served as chairperson of the Systematic Theology and Philosophy Department and the Division of Religion.

Railey is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society for Pentecostal Studies. He serves as professor of theology and as chairman of the Bible and Theology Department at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo. He recently spoke with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor.

evangel: This General Council carries the theme of “Believe.” What role has the commitment to believe played in the history of the Assemblies of God?

JAMES RAILEY: Even if you tracked from the end of the 19th century, you would find a lot of belief in the promise of an outpouring of God’s Spirit and an anticipation of accelerated missions activities. That whole fervor fed Topeka, Kan., and Azusa Street where early 20th-century expressions of Pentecost took place. Belief was a strong component at Hot Springs, Ark., and the birth of the Assemblies of God in 1914. Participants had a firm belief God was doing something, they were a part of it, and they wanted to establish an entity that could perpetuate what they believed strongly God was doing.

evangel: How should followers of Christ anchor their truth claims?

RAILEY: I appeal immediately to the authority of Scripture. The Assemblies of God sees the Scriptures as our “rule for faith and practice.” The Scriptures have to be interpreted properly, so I’m not arguing the authority of Scripture be based on my interpretation alone. The larger history of how the Church, including the Assemblies of God, has handled Scripture is an important foundation for belief.

evangel: What about the tendency today to give all beliefs equal weight? Are Christians being intolerant when they hold to certain truths?

RAILEY: While we don’t want to convey a tolerance that accepts anything and everything, we don’t want to be intolerant in the sense of being antagonistic or disrespectful. But all beliefs cannot have equal weight. Contradictions arise. If I am basing my beliefs on Scripture and carefully working to interpret them properly, I need to hold to my beliefs even if I’m labeled as intolerant.

evangel: How can followers of Christ communicate their beliefs in a way that invites nonbelievers to examine the gospel for themselves?

RAILEY: We need to communicate our beliefs lovingly and respectfully, and have enough of an understanding of someone else’s beliefs to gain the opportunity to talk about ours. But we need to communicate without compromise. There must be a clear call for people to respond.

evangel: Within Christian academics, what are some pitfalls to avoid?

RAILEY: First, we can’t allow a fear of other views to dominate us. As well, we need to be careful not to misrepresent views different from ours. Caricaturing other views does not advance our own. Third, we need to be convinced of our beliefs and prepared to present them with clarity.

evangel: Is there a belief statement featured this General Council that resonates with your life and ministry?

RAILEY: The second and third points capture my attention. It is absolutely not OK for anyone to die without hearing the gospel, and we must complete the Great Commission. Those truths motivate my involvement in academics, as I have the opportunity to impact students who will go where I can’t go and do what I can’t do to touch people I will never be able to influence personally.

evangel: Any concluding thoughts?

RAILEY: I want to remind myself of the importance of belief. In my discipline of systematic theology, I can never forget fundamental beliefs such as the divinity of Christ, the centrality of the gospel, and His commission to share it.


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