Who is Present in Absence?: A Pentecostal Theological Praxis of Suffering and Healing

Pamela Fay Walter Engelbert, Luther Seminary


This practical theological project contributes to a Pentecostal theology of suffering and healing by employing the method of Christopraxis as put forth by Ray Anderson and Andrew Root. In Pentecostal hermeneutical fashion, this project draws from others’ experiences and considers them alongside Scripture. It juxtaposes the themes of absence and presence by reflecting on the participants’ experiences and John’s Gospel by drawing from Craig Keener and Marianne Meye Thompson. This qualitative study answers the question as to how eight Classical Pentecostals experienced God and others when they did not experience a divine intervention to eradicate their suffering. The participants’ inability to cause God to instantaneously deliver them from their suffering, i.e. nothingness, is referred to as God’s apparent absence and is placed alongside God’s presence by exploring Pentecostalism’s historical roots of the Azusa Street Revival. The participants’ experiences with God amidst their suffering is examined by using James K. A. Smith, arguing that they experienced both nothingness in God’s omnipresence and intense instances of divine presence in nothingness. God’s presence was also experienced in person-to-person ministry as believers participated in Christ’s ministry of revelation and reconciliation. While unhelpful responses reinforced the individualistic tendency of Pentecostalism, helpful responses demonstrated suffering as an opportunity for relationality when considering John Bowlby’s attachment theory. By arguing that Christ is the embodiment of God’s empathy, this study proposes a theological praxis of empathy by using Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. Such acts of love participate in Christ’s ministry of presence and demonstrate to the world we are Christ’s disciples.