Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Charismatic Perspective on the Origins of Pentecostalism

The grace that Pentecostalism brought to Christendom was to make the use of tongues and the other gifts described by Paul in I Cor. 12 and 14 normal in the life of ordinary Christians.[1]  This was something not seen since Apostolic times. Before we examine how tongues came to be normal (or at least well known) we need to look at an almost forgotten revival to learn a negative lesson. That is, what happens when the Spirit gives His gifts but there is no theology to receive the experience?

 The Cherokee County Revival

The revival in question took place in Cherokee County, North Carolina.[2]  This county is part of the Unicoi mountain region bordering North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. It occurred during the summer of 1896.Ten years earlier a tiny eight member church formed called the “Christian Union” by the Rev. R.R. Spurling. The founder’s rather grandiose intentions were to restore the church to the holiness of “primitive Christianity,” avoid divisive creeds, and ultimately unite all the churches – thus its name. Spurling died shortly after the church’s launch, but not before he ordained his son, R.G. Spurling, Jr., to carry on his vision of the new church.

The Christian Union grew slowly, and in 1892 a second congregation formed. Two other preachers joined the denomination, one was a Methodist preacher, William Martin, and the other F. W. Bryant, a Baptist. By then, all three had experienced a Wesleyan-like “second blessing” of sanctification in their lives and were influenced by Holiness doctrines.Under the leadership of these ministers, a series of local revivals took place in the homes, barns and meeting houses of the Unicoi mountain region. This intensified in the summer of 1896 when the three ministers began a revival in the Shearer schoolhouse in Cherokee County, a humble, one-room frame building. They preached the Methodist-Holiness message of sanctification and soon return of Jesus. A. J. Tomilinson, writing about the revival fifteen years later, recounts:

…the Holy Ghost began to fall on the honest, humble, sincere seekers of God. While the meetings were in progress one after the other fell under the power of God, and soon quite a number were speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The influence and excitement then spread like wildfire, and people came for many miles to investigate, hear and see the manifestations of the presence of God.[3]
The tongues surprised the ministers, who “sought the scriptures.” They correctly identified the phenomenon with Acts 2:4, 10:46 and 19:6 and felt very blessed by the experience. The revival, including tongues, lasted all summer, but faded by the fall. The ministers and congregation thanked God for the season of revival and the tongues, and prayed that all of the Churches would be similarly blessed.

The Rev. Spurling, Jr. and the others who led the revival had no theology, accurate or inaccurate, to understand that what had happened was a universally important and a repeatable gift. They did not make a “big deal” of the tongues. A decade later, when the Azusa Street revival received national publicity, the churches of the Christian Union accepted the theology developed by Charles Parham and joined the budding Pentecostal movement. Ultimately, the Christian Union changed its name and grew to become the Church of God (Tennessee), now one of the biggest Pentecostal denominations of the world.

One other pre-Pentecostal revival needs to be mentioned, a revival that took place among several Holiness congregations in Corsicana County, Texas, in the 1870s. This revival began with a burst of worship and enthusiasm which included tongues and, significantly, an understanding that the gifts of the Spirit described in 1 Cor 12 were for the present. Unfortunately, like many revivals before, the leaders drifted into false prophecy, which included the idea that a person baptized with the Spirit would be regenerated physically to the point of being able to live a thousand years. The revival disintegrated further as local prophets urged their followers to sell all and await Jesus’ return in 1875. Jesus didn’t make it, and the only thing achieved by the revival was the discrediting of future Pentecostal efforts in the area.[4]  

Charles Parham and the theology of tongues:

These two revivals give us a backdrop to understand the achievements of the Pentecostal revival that did succeed and was able to discern a way forward through its own temptations to false prophecy and exaggerated theology. For this we need to turn to pioneer of all of this, Charles F. Parham (1873-1929).[5]  Parham was born to a rural family in Iowa, and as an infant had an attack of encephalitis which left him weak and stunted his growth. At age nine he contracted rheumatic fever which further weakened him. Thankfully his devout mother prayed for him continuously.

In 1890 Parham entered Southwest Kansas College, but the next year suffered a severe relapse of rheumatic fever. In a weakened state he overheard his physician say that he would die, and this brought him to intense prayer. Shortly, he began to recover. But it was an incomplete healing that left him partially crippled and with his ankles turned outward. Seated under an apple tree at Southwest he made a re-commitment to God to pursue the ministry and be obedient to God’s direction. Immediately he was healed and walked normally.[6] 

Parham left Southwest in 1893 to become a Methodist pastor, and successfully pastored several Methodists congregations. But by 1895 he felt a call to pursue an independent ministry, dependent solely on God’s inspiration and direction. He came to accept the “radical” Faith-Cure position, that recourse to medication or doctors showed lack of faith. He added faith healing to his preaching of salvation and holiness and in fact ministered many healings in his evangelistic efforts.[7]  During this period he married Sarah Thistlethwaite, who would be his life-long assistant and co-worker, and with her help founded the Beth-el Healing Home in Topeka, on the model of healing home from the Faith-Cure movement of the 1880s.[8]  The focus at Beth-el was to build up the patient’s faith so that his or her own prayers would result in healing. He also published a Holiness journal called Apostolic Faith.
In 1899 he read in another Holiness journal of a Christian missionary who received a special gift. She was able to open her mouth and speak in unknown tongues, and her audience in Africa could perfectly understand what she said in their native languages. This is similar to what happened to Peter in Acts 2:5-12.[9]  This unusual spiritual gift is called “xenolalia,” by scholars, and it has been reported sporadically in both Catholic saint’s tales and Protestant missionary literature.[10]   Later, Parham went on a twelve week tour of Canada and the U.S. to visit several Holiness centers. At his stop at a large Holiness church complex in Shiloh, Maine, he again heard an account of Holiness missionaries speaking in unknown tongues which the natives heard and understood in their own language.

These reports impressed Parham who had strong belief in pre-millennialism and the soon return of Christ. Parham combined these elements into a theological system. The Holy Spirit was about to pour out a new baptism on the Church which would enable missionaries to communicate the gospel with whoever they encountered, and demonstrate the power of the Gospel with healing. This combination would trigger an immediate and glorious world-wide revival, and in turn usher in the rapture and second coming. In Parham’s mind, tongues/xenolalia was the key and identifying mark of Spirit-baptism and of the end-times great missionary expansion.

Parham returned to Topeka at the end of 1899 and urged his students at Beth-el to seek the marks of Spirit-baptism. He guided them to study the book of Acts, and especially Acts 2. They reported to him that the single evidence for the reception of the Holy Spirit was the speaking in tongues. A night-watch service was called by Parham to usher in the New Year for Parham’s students and his local congregation. Parham recalled later what happened:

About 75 people beside the school which consisted of 40 students, had gathered for the watch night service. A mighty spiritual power filled the entire school. At 10:30 p.m. Sister Agnes N. Ozman, (now La Berge) asked that hands might be laid upon her to receive the Holy Spirit as she hoped to go to foreign fields. At first I refused, not having the experience myself. Then being further pressed to do it humbly in the name of Jesus, I laid my hands upon her head and prayed. I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when the glory fell upon her a halo seemed to surround her head and face and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days.[11] 
We should note that Parham guessed that the tongues spoken was Chinese, since there are many languages spoken in China. Parham believed his theology was authenticated and that his discovery would usher in the great end-time revival immediately. Instead, it immediately caused opposition and negative publicity. There followed two years in the “desert” where he cultivated a small following and tried to spread the message of tongues as mark of Spirit-baptism. In Galena, Texas in 1903 he did trigger a local revival and it was there that tongues and divine healing were united into what we would recognize as a Pentecostal service. The Galena revival received some favorable local publicity, and Parham was able to lead further revivals in Texas and especially in the Houston area. There he settled and establish the “Houston Bible School” where he combined Holiness sanctification, divine healing, tongues and the pre-millennial end-times theology into a “Pentecostal package.” He also spread this theology via his journal Apostolic Faith.

Parham missed being a major player in the Azusa Street revival which began in 1906 because he was busy bringing the message of tongues to the people of Alexander Dowie’s “Zion City” complex north of Chicago. For a while it seemed that Parham was going to win over a majority of Zion’s residents to his leadership. However, that did not happen, and Parham went back to Kansas and then Texas.[12]  He did make it to Azusa Street in October of 1906 to attempt to assume leadership of the revival there. He was appalled by the exuberance, noise, and general “messiness” of the revival (see below).[13]  He tried to “correct” these faults, but was rebuffed by the church board and asked to leave. He founded a separate Pentecostal church in Los Angeles which did not flourish. He left that church to another pastor and went back to Texas.

The worst was yet to come. He was accused of and arrested for a homosexual affair with a young man – a felony in Texas and an almost “unforgivable sin” among Holiness advocates. Although the charges were never proven and the case dismissed, the charges made headlines in the religious press across the nation. Parham’s ability to be a major leader in the new Pentecostal movement was ruined. He died in 1929, largely forgotten by the Pentecostal movement he founded. He went to his death-bed still believing that the gift of tongues was always xenolalia.[14]  This in spite of the fact that the Pentecostal missionaries who went on foreign missions demonstrated, to their surprise and embarrassment, that he was wrong.

Pentecostals would grapple with tongues-as-xenolalia for several decades and come to an understanding that tongues were related principally to Paul’s description in 1 Cor. 12 and 14.[15]  [15] That is, that tongues were a special form of heavenly language used in communication with God, useful for edification, and, when matched with the gift of interpretation, functions as prophecy. Paul says clearly in 1 Cor 14:2, “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” Xenolalia was a related but different and rare event. The idea that tongues was the necessary first step or “initial evidence” of Spirit-baptism remained as basic to Pentecostal theology, although there was always some opposition to this interpretation. For instance, the well-known Pentecostal healing evangelist, F F Bosworth, believed there were “multiple’ evidences to being baptized in the Spirit. Because of his opinion, he had to leave the Assemblies of God and joined the Christian and Missionary Alliance.[16] 
In spite of his inglorious later years, Parham’s achievements must be counted as enormous. He brought the phenomenon of tongue speaking to the forefront of Christian thought and practice as never before. This opened up also clearer thinking about the other gifts of the Spirit enumerated in 1 Cor 12, and Romans 12.

The contrast between the Cherokee County revival and the Azusa St. revival reminds us of what the famous philosopher science, Karl Popper, said on the progress of truth. That it, truth is discovered through some hypothesis that focuses on a phenomenon, and by testing it is affirmed, modified, or eliminated.[17]  From the perspective of one hundred years we can see that Parham’s two hypotheses, that tongues was xenolalia, and that tongues were the necessary “initial evidence” of Spirit-baptism were respectively a mistake and an exaggeration. However these hypotheses were close enough to the truth to make tongues desirable to many Christians and do what the Cherokee Revival did not – spark a world-wide movement and recovery of the word gifts of 1 Cor 12.[18]

An African-American preacher ignites Pentecostalism:

Parham’s other major contribution to Pentecostalism was in mentoring the person who would subsequently lead the Azusa Street revival, a African-American Holiness preacher named William Seymour (1870-1922).[19]  Seymour was borne in Centerville, Louisiana, to parents who had been slaves. Raised as a Baptist, as a boy and young man he received multiple spiritual dreams and visions. He moved north and eventually settled in Cincinnati where he joined a local Holiness congregation called the “Evening Star Saints.” They preached entire sanctification and anticipated a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit just before the rapture of the Church.

Seymour caught smallpox which blinded him in his left eye, but while recuperating from his illness accepted a call to preach. He was licensed and ordained by the Evening Star Saints. Providentially, Seymour moved to Houston and there attended a local Holiness Church pastored by a woman preacher, Lucy Farrow. Farrow asked Seymour to be pastor of her congregation while she accepted a position as governess in the home of Charles Parham in Galena, Texas. When Farrow returned to Houston with the Parham family (1905) she had the gifts of tongues. Parham had returned to there to establish a new Bible school.

Seymour became a student at Parham’s school, but due to the Jim-crow laws, had to sit in the hall and listen to Parham’s instruction via the open door of the classroom. Seymour accepted Parham’s Pentecostal theology and especially his understanding of tongues – although he did not immediately speak in tongues
An African-American Holiness congregation in Los Angeles invited Seymour to come and preach (and audition to become its pastor). When Seymour arrived in California, February, 1906, many of the local Holiness and other evangelical churches there were in anticipation of revival. This had been sparked by the news of the great revival in Wales (1903-1904).[20]  In Los Angeles one of Seymour’s first sermons to his potentially new congregation was on the necessity of tongues for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. In response, they locked him out of the church – and with that went his job as pastor.

However, he continued preaching and holding Bible studies in several private homes. These meeting had an unusual anointing from the beginning. Both Blacks and Whites mingled together – very unusual for the era. At this point Seymour and several others received the gift of tongues, and this sparked curiosity and growth that could not be contained in any private home.

A search found a vacant two story frame building that had recently served as a warehouse and stable – 312 Azusa Street. It was quickly cleared and prepared with crude pews (planks set on empty barrels) and a “mourner’s bench” to receive converts. Seymour named the church “Azusa Street Mission.” In its first meetings, April 1906, the church did not even possess a preacher’s stand. But from the first services there was a tremendous anointing with tongues and other revival manifestations present, such as “falling under the power.” News of the new “tongues” manifestation spread quickly in Los Angeles and the small church attracted both the pious and the curious. Within a week, The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter to investigate. The result was a negative, but lengthy report on the meetings. The headline read: “Weird Babble of Tongues.”
In September 1906 another reporter described the events taking place and wrote that the Azusa Street mission:

[It is a] disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn’t talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, ‘Repent,’ and he’s supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, ‘The Comforter Has Come.”[21] 
These newspaper accounts attracted even more people. More importantly, people began coming in from across the country to see what was happening. The Holiness preacher named Frank Bartleman, who ultimately became Azusa Street’s first historian, came and left us a more discerning account of the early meetings.

Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there. The services ran almost continuously. …The people came to meet God. He was always there…
No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit….
Someone might be speaking. Suddenly the Spirit would fall upon the congregation. God himself would give the altar call. Men would fall all over the house, like slain in battle, or rush for the altar enmasse, to seek God. The scene often resembled a forest of fallen trees…The shekinah glory rested there. In fact some claim to have seen the glory by night over the building. I do not doubt it.[22]  [22]
Seymour maintained order with a firm but gentle hand. He often ceded the preaching to visiting preachers. The upstairs served for overflow crowds and for a “tarrying” place for those seeking the Baptism of the Spirit. That is, a period of prayer and pleading in which the seeker waited for God’s power as in the Acts 2 “upper room” Pentecost.

After the LA Times articles the crowds increased to about 200-300 per evening. The initial revival at Azusa Street lasted between 1906-1909 with another burst occurring after 1911. Besides bringing thousands of skeptics and non-believers to the Lord, many thousands were baptized in the Spirit, and many healed. But, the major work of the revival was to broadcast the “Pentecostal package” of Holiness sanctification, baptism of the Spirit with tongues, divine healing, Faith-Idealism, and premillennialism. Eventually Seymour deemphasized tongues as “initial evidence” and stressed tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit for empowerment in service, but not before Parham’s original doctrine of initial evidence became the majority view among the newly forming Pentecostal churches.

Faith-Idealism, the understanding that the promises of scripture are more important than the physical evidence of the senses, was an integral part of this package, though most often lived rather than preached. We catch a glimpse of it from Bartleman’s own comments on an attack of mumps as he spread the word of Pentecost through the south: “The mumps were working on me, though I refused to acknowledge it.”[23]

Besides the many visitors to the Azusa Street mission, Pentecostalism spread through the wide circulation of Seymour’s newspaper, The Apostolic Faith. He directed the paper and wrote many of its articles. Seymour had the help of two female employees on the Azusa Street Mission staff, Miss Clara Lum, and Mrs. Florence Reed Crawford.[24]  Miss Lum had experience as an editor of a missionary journal, and Mrs. Reed Crawford, was also experienced in Christian publishing. Mrs. Reed Crawford also served as Pentecostal apostle and evangelist for California. The Apostolic Faith’s first printing in 1906 numbered 5,000 copies, a substantial figure for the times. It grew to 40,000 by 1907 – fed by a mailing list of visitors from the United States and overseas which was managed by Miss Lum. It was of critical importance in spreading the “Pentecostal Package” in the initial years of the revival.

William and Jenny Seymour:

What ultimately happened to Seymour and his paper is a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. Seymour and his staff, like many Holiness revivalist of his times, were absolutely certain of the very soon return of Jesus Christ – as in next week, or at most a few years. However Seymour had a romantic interest in Miss Lum, a white woman, and considered marrying her. He consulted with his church board which advised him that such an interracial marriage would destroy the budding revival (this was 1907, not 2007). Seymour stopped that romance.
At bit later he fell in love and married Jenny Moore (1908) – a very attractive Black woman. Before his marriage to Moore, Seymour began preaching that marriage was OK in spite of the imminent return of Jesus Christ.This was disappointing to both Miss Lum and Mrs. Crawford who considered Seymour’s marriage a scandal and violation of Paul’s admonition not to marry because the “time is short” (1 Cor 7). With indignation (and jealously?) two of the women ran off with The Apostolic Faith mailing list to Portland, Oregon.[25]  They continued printing the The Apostolic Faith from Portland without even letting the readers know that Seymour was no longer in charge. Mrs. Crawford went on to found a separate Pentecostal denomination called the Apostolic Faith Mission, and she made sure that none of her ministers married.[26]

The theft of the mailing list cut off Seymour from his national following and short-circuited his continued leadership in the Pentecostal Movement. His church, The Azusa Street Mission, lingered on as an African American Pentecostal church with small numbers until his death in 1922. It would go on under the pastorship of his widow, Jenny, until 1931 when she retired.

The early Pentecostals’ confusion of tongues with being able to speak unlearned foreign languages was a major cause of its ridicule and rejection by the majority of Evangelicals. But the Azusa Street revival had fulfilled its Providential task. Tongues and the gifts of the Spirit became part of normal, repeatable events in the life of dedicated Christians. Unlike the Irving revival in England of the previous century, the Azusa Street revival did not generate an exaggerated prophetic legacy that it could not correct. Through its visitors, and The Apostolic Faith, varieties of the “Pentecostal package” became established throughout the world. These formed “beachhead” churches that planted Pentecostalism amid a public and clergy that generally rejected the new insights, and often bitterly persecuted the messengers. In the American South, Pentecostalism had its greatest initial gains. Many Methodist and Holiness congregations quickly added the Pentecostal package to their Holiness theology.

One prophetic element of the Azusa St. Revival that did not last a decade was its interracial quality that included Hispanics from the LA region. This racial diversity did not last long either in The Azusa Street Mission itself or in the new Pentecostal denominations and churches. By 1920 Pentecostal churches were generally as segregated as other churches in the United States.[27] 

The Holiness Veterans
Part of the reason that Pentecostalism succeeded was that many of its leaders were the battle tested and often wounded veterans of the Holiness and Faith-Cure movements. They had been bruised in the scandals of Dowie’s Zion City, opposed and ridiculed as cultists for their participation in the Faith-Cure movement, and told they were fanatics for upholding their Holiness code of morals. Some like Carrie Judd Montgomery had survived the scandals and had established successful, if marginalized ministries of their own.[28]  These Holiness and Faith-Cure veterans persisted and kept fellowship with each other. As Paul wrote of his own life: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:8-9) Grayed and spiritually scarred, they flooded into Pentecostal denominations and churches with their wisdom and spiritual maturity. For the first time in modern church history, the leadership of one revival (the Faith-Cure) lived long enough so that they could mentor the leadership of another revival (Pentecostalism). It was a continuity of wisdom, suffering and experience. Bartleman, who we quoted earlier, was quite aware of this:

One reason for the depth of the work at “Azusa” was the fact that the workers were not novices. They were largely called and prepared for years, from the Holiness ranks, and from the mission field, etc. They had been burned out, tried and proven. They were largely seasoned veterans.[29]
Naturally, the Pentecostals faced persecution and ridicule in their home churches. Some of the fiercest opposition arose from Holiness churches and pastors who did not accept Pentecostalism as a fulfillment of the Holiness quest of the Holy Spirit. In fact, one of the cruelest early critiques of tongues originated from a Holiness pastor’s wife, Alma White, who in her book Demons and Tongues, claimed that tongues were demonic in origins.[30]  This was a position that many were prone to accept without much further investigation, and it remained influential for decades.

Opposition to Pentecostalism was not just in writing. Especially in the American South, where the Klan believed itself to be the arbiter Protestant Christianity, opposition meant beatings and burnings. As late as 1947 a sniper fired a rifle bullet at Oral Roberts during one of his early tent crusades.[31]  In many foreign countries, especially in Latin America, Pentecostals suffered torture and martyrdom.

Within a few years of the original outbreak it became clear that the established churches would reject the “Pentecostal Package.” New fellowships had to be forged. Forming a new religious group out of older ones is difficult because the general enthusiasm of the “innovators,” which unites them, often clashes with their conflicting expectations and histories when the time comes to organize and live together as a new group. Not surprisingly, the Pentecostals formed multiple Pentecostal denominations and independent fellowships. Among the most important development was the formation of fellowships that were not from Wesleyan or Holiness traditions. The largest of these, the “Assemblies of God” denomination formed in 1914 to be a home to Pentecostals from the Baptist tradition – and also, most unfortunately, to assure the segregation of the races.

 Pentecostalism’s “irregular idea:”

Forming a new theology of the gifts of the Holy Spirit where there was so little in the received traditions and theology of Christendom was no easy matter. Unexpectedly, it was the theology of baptism, not tongues or the other gifts, which caused the worst division among the early Pentecostals. It took the form of the “Oneness” or “Jesus Only” movement. This new division began in 1913, at a Pentecostal camp meeting. There the minister in charge of Baptism noted that in the Book of Acts, the converts were baptized in Jesus’ name, and not in the Trinitarian formula found in Matthew 28:19. He baptized that day in the name of Jesus only. This stirred up a controversy and another Pentecostal minister, Frank J. Ewart, “searched the scriptures” and came to the conclusion that this innovation was correct. Further, he developed the idea that God was only Jesus, and the Trinity a superfluous doctrine. For him, Jesus was the Father and the Holy Spirit all in one.

This idea had occurred in the first centuries and was called modalism but was dispatched as a heresy back in the early church councils. It is true that the Holy Trinity is a difficult concept – more properly a “mystery” that humans can never fully grasp. However, this new modalism was not a good way to understand the relationship of Father, Jesus and Spirit as revealed in the New Testament.[32]  Ewart began touring Pentecostal congregations, especially Assemblies of God churches, and re-baptizing believers in the Jesus formula. Many accepted re-baptism without Ewart’s modalism, but some did slip away from Trinitarianism.

By 1915 leaders of the Assemblies of God were concerned about the issue and called a general council to discuss the matter. Ironically, many of the early Pentecostals believed that church creeds were unimportant (and somewhat “Catholic” – and thus bad). They believed one could rely on the guidance of the Spirit for all issues of doctrine. They were reluctant to fashion a new “creed” for this crisis, and so nothing was settled that year. What did happen was that the Oneness pastors were removed from leadership positions. This was not enough, and by 1916 the Assemblies of God issued a “statement of faith” (a creed with a different name) reaffirming Trinitarianism and forcing the Oneness faction out. The Oneness ministers then reorganized into several denominations, but it was almost three decades before they could come together in what is now the “United Pentecostal Church International” (1945).

We should note that the issue of the correct baptismal formula continues to shadow even Trinitarian Pentecostals to this day. In fact, it is a valid issue. A majority of biblical scholars are convinced that the Trinitarian formula was an “add on” to the Gospels from the early Church.[33]  This does not mean that the Trinitarian formula, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” is invalid. It may mean the opposite, that the Early Church understood the necessity of the Trinity and its implication for the Christian at the beginning of his spiritual life.[34]

 Marginalization of Pentecostalism:

Oneness controversy gave further excuse for the mainline churchmen and theologians to marginalize and write-off all forms of Pentecostalism as sect and heresy. The educated clergy of the Second Great Awakening had understood and tolerated the “exercises,” such as bodily twitching and “falling.” of that revival largely because Edward’s revival writings were both widely read and respected. But that situation had changed by the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The “modern” seminaries had little interest in Edwards’ revival writings.[35]  Thus the Pentecostals were ridiculed and marginalized as “holy rollers” because of their exuberant “exercises.” Edwards had explained it perfectly a century and a half earlier, but he would not be listened to in the 1900s.

The legalists and liberals had a field day. By the 1930s, mainline Christians had all sorts of “explanations” that reduced Pentecostalism, its “exercises,” and its tongues to a sociological phenomenon and/or psychological aberration. Just one example, a Yale professor, George Bernard Cutten, wrote Speaking with Tongues, Historically and Psychologically Considered, in which he concluded that tongue speaking was a form of hypnotism related to mental illness.[36]  It took well into the 1960s for non-prejudiced and well executed scientific surveys using control groups to conclude that tongues were not a psychological abnormality.[37]  Their pacifist stand in World War I added to the unpopularity of the Pentecostals.

The Slow Expansion of Pentecostalism:

After the first two decades of growth, Pentecostalism settled in to a pattern of routine pastoral ministry and slow growth. The most exciting aspect of Pentecostalism in the between wars period (1918-1941) was its itinerant healing evangelists. For instance, Maria Woodsworth-Etter came into full Pentecostalism in 1912 when she teamed up with F.F. Bosworth for a revival in Dallas. Her prestige as a Holiness healing evangelist nudged many of her followers to embrace full Pentecostalism. She continued a schedule of healing/evangelistic (and now Pentecostal) crusades until her death in 1924. But the most exciting of all (and controversial) in this period was Aimee Semple McPherson, “Sister Aimee” whose unusual and controversial ministry pioneered many of the things that were to become commonplace decades later in the charismatic renewal, such as a relaxed dress code.[38] 

"Sister Aimee" in an 1930s service.

During World War II Pentecostals began to acquire a grudging acceptance from mainline Christians. In 1942 Pentecostals became charter members of the National Association of Evangelicals – a major breakthrough in acceptance by other Protestants. After the war TV became a major factor in American life, and in 1953 Oral Roberts began broadcasting his healing crusades on TV. Suddenly Americans could catch a glimpse of “faith-healing” that was exciting, and seemed to work – and came without snakes.

Immediately after World War II there came another outburst of Pentecostalism called the “Latter Rain Movement.” The revival started in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, at a Pentecostal school and church campus (February, 1948). It was marked by a renewed anointing for healing and the usual revival phenomenon of “falling under the power.” But this revival also had the repeated occurrence of a phenomenon called the “heavenly choir” – where music supernaturally flows from the heavens without any apparent source.[39]  One person who experienced it wrote:

From a little distance it sounds like a master choir accompanied by a matchless symphony orchestra. It seems difficult to credit that such a sound could be reproduced by human vocal organs. There is such perfect order and timing…[40] 
Another unusual element was that instead of “tarrying” for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the revivalist would lay hands on the supplicant’s head for the impartation of the Spirit. In July 1948 there was a weeklong camp meeting in the Canadian town of North Battleford widely attended by Pentecostal laypersons and ministers from all over Canada and the United States. By 1949 the revival had spread to dozens of churches north and south of the border, especially among churches that were independent of the major denominations.

In fact, many pastors in the established Pentecostals denominations looked askance at this new movement and found fault with its emphasis on prophecy. They could point to trivial and false prophecies being uttered – as if this was anything new. Some Pentecostal leaders called the movement heretical, because of its prophesying, and because of the new use of laying on of hands for impartation of the Holy Spirit.[41]   This criticism was overkill, for a movement that was bringing thousands of converts to Christ, having major healings, and imparting the Baptism of the Spirit to other thousands. In spite of opposition, the Latter Rain revival continued to spread and influence many churches, and many of those touched by it became the leaders of the coming Charismatic Renewal. For example, the editors of Logos Magazine, which became the first and most important journal of the early Charismatic Renewal, came from of Herald of Faith/Harvest Time which was the journal of the Latter Rain Movement.

On reflection, in spite of its mistakes, “irregular ideas” and failures of its leaders, the Pentecostal revival ushered what is perhaps the greatest move of the Spirit since Apostolic times. Ironically, it began with a mistake and an exaggeration, that tongues was xenolalia, and that tongues must always be the initial evidence for anyone who had the Baptism of the Spirit. The noted Pentecostal historian William Faupel carefully studied the documents of Pentecostalism’s first decades and concluded that the confusion of tongues as xenolalia was indeed a major cause of its ridicule and rejection by the majority of Evangelicals of the period.[42]   But God was in the movement, amidst its human frailties and theological imperfections. And Pentecostalism, combined with its later sibling, the charismatic movement, ultimately became the most important and widespread church reformation since Apostolic times.


The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

[1]The literature on the origins of Pentecostalism is vast and growing, as even mainline scholars and theologians are awakened to the fact that Pentecostalism is a major Christian movement. It is a complex story, and more facets are uncovered constantly. This chapter gives only a brief summary of its beginnings. For a look at the multifaceted origins of Pentecostalism, see the now classic work by Walter J. Hollenweger, Pentecostalism: Origins and Development Worldwide (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997).
[2]On this revival, see Harold Hunter, “Spirit-baptism and the 1896 Revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina,” Pneuma  5 no. 2 ( 1983) 1-17. And especially, Charles W. Conn, Like a Mighty Army: A History of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1977) chapters 1-3.

[3] A. J. Tomlinson, The Last Great Conflict (Cleveland: Press of Walter e. Rodgers, 1913) 184. Cited in William K. Kay and Anne E. Dyer, Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies (London: SMC Press, 2004) 8. Dr. Vincent Synan, the dean of Pentecostal historians, believes there is little evidence of a real tongues outburst at the Cherokee revival, and that memories of tongues at that revival rely on evidence gathered decades after the event – and thus suspicious. I respectfully disagree with Dr. Synan. In my years as a charismatic scholar I have met several persons who spoke in tongues as children or youth, but did not know what it was, and discontinued the tongues. Later, when they came into contact with the charismatic renewal and understood the phenomenon, they resumed tongues. My friend and prayer partner, the Rev. Dean David Collins, the former president of the Episcopal House of Deputies (1988-1991), had an experience of this type. When he was ordained to the priesthood in 1948 he felt a great wave of power on him as the Bishop laid hands on his head, and immediately after the words out of his mouth seemed to be an incomprehensible babble. He struggled to “get control of himself” and was then able to speak normally. Only decades later, when he came into contact with charismatics and again spoke in tongues, was he able to understand that initial babble to be tongues. See: David B. Collins, There Is a Lad Here (Darien, GA: Darien News, 1996) 84-85. For the same reason it seems that the assertion by Maria Woodsworth-Etter, the great Holiness and Pentecostal revivalist, that she spoke in tongues long before Azusa St (1906) is credible, although there is no documentary evidence in her early writings to prove it. As a mature saint of God, she would not lie about this. People do not generally write about phenomenon they do not understand, or would feel foolish in disclosing.

[4] On the rise and fall of this revival see: Barry W. Hamilton, “The Corsicana Enthusiasts: A Pre-Pentecostal Millennial Sect,” Wesleyan Theological Journal, 39 No. 1 (spring, 2004) 173-193.
[5] On Parham see: J. Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the missionary origins of Pentecostalism, Ph.D. dissertation (University of Arkansas, 1987).
[6] Goff, Fields White, 49.

[7] Goff, Fields White, 68.
[8] On the Faith-Cure Movement see my work, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996).
[9] Goff, Fields White, 123.
[10] Hunter, “Spirit-baptism,” note 3, p 13.

[11] Cited in Goff, Fields White, 113, from Parham’s account two decades later, and probably embellished to accent the role of the students in “discovering” the importance of tongues.
[12] On Parham’s activities and influence in Zion City, see Edith Blumhofer’s, “The Christian Catholic Apostolic Church and the Apostolic Faith: A Study in the 1906 Pentecostal Revival,” 126-146. In: Cecil M. Roebeck, Jr., Charismatic Experiences in History (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985).
[13]See on this, Goff, Fields, 132.

[14] Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1971) 111.
[15] Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (London: Harvard University Press, 2001) 44-51.
[16] On the early dissent to tongues as the necessary evidence for the Baptism of the Spirit, see Paul Chappell, “Tongues as the Initial Evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit – A Pentecostal Perspective, Criswell Theological Review, 4 No. 1 (fall 2006) 49-50.

[17] Karl R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (London: Routledge & Paul, 1963).
[18] This is explained with academic jargon in Shane Clifton’s, “The Spirit and Doctrinal Developments: A Functional Analysis of the Traditional Pentecostal Doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” Pneuma, 29 No. 1, 5-23.
[19] On Seymour, see Larry Martin, The Life and Ministry of William J. Seymour (Joplin: Christian Life Books, 1999) and the detailed article on Seymour by Vinson Synan in: Stanley M. Burgess, and Gary B. McGee, (eds.), Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988). Available on the web is Synan’s article for Christian History, issue 65, “Pentecostalism: William Seymour.”

[20] On the extent that the revival in Wales stirred expectancy in Los Angeles during 1905 and 1906, see Frank Bartleman, Another Wave of Revival (Springdale: Whitaker house, 1982), 24.
[21] Cited from the excellent web site on the Azusa St Revival:
[22] Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street, (Plainfield: Logos International, 1980), 58-60. Reprint of the 1925 ed. published under title, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles.

[23]Bartleman Azusa St. 133.
[24] Estrelda AlexanderThe Women of Azusa Street (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2005), see especially chapters four and five.

[25] On the different theories as to why the women left with the mailing list, see Larry Martin, The Life and Ministry of William J. Seymour (Joplin: Christian Life Books, 1999) 278 note 43.
[26] For a glimpse of this small and morally rigorists denomination see the article in Time magazine, “Camp Meeting: Apostolic Faith” (April 19, 1935) 34-35.
[27] On the African American contribution to Pentecostalism and the tragic re-segregation of Pentecostal churches see: Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1971) chapter 8 “The Negro Pentecostals.” Also, a brief article by Louis F. Morgan “The Flame Still Burns.” Charisma (Nov, 2007) 42-58. This is a beautifully illustrated article and unusually detailed for a popular magazine.
[28] Carrie Judd Montogmery’s influence and leadership from Faith-Cure to Pentecostalism was stressed in the scholarly article by Daniel E. Albrecht, “Carrie Judd Montgomery: Pioneering Contributor to Three Religious Movements,” PNEUMA 8 (fall 1986) 101-119.
[29] Bartleman, Azuza St., 81.

[30] Alma White, Demons and Tongues (Bound Book, NJ: The Pentecostal Union, 1910). This citation may be confusing, “Bound Book” is the place name, and “Pentecostal Union” the publishing institution. Many Holiness groups used the term Pentecostal without our modern association of tongues.
[31] Vinson Synan, In the Latter Days: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Twentieth Century (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1984) 75.

[32] The reader may have guessed that I dislike to call unusual Christian groups “heretics.” But here I am tempted.
[33] Edmund Schlink, The Doctrine of Baptism (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis/London, 1972) 27–28.
[34] The reader may have seen the excellent movie, “The Apostle,” starring Robert Duval as a Pentecostal preacher. He baptized his converts “Onto the name of Jesus. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” thereby hedging his bets on this issue.
[35]On this point see: Gerald R. McDermott, “The Great Divider: Jonathan Edwards and American Culture,” Books and Culture (Jan./Feb. 2010).
[36] George Barton CuttenSpeaking With Tongues, Historically and Psychologically Considered (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927).
[37] In fact, one survey showed that persons who spoke in tongue were more likely to be well adjusted and healthy psychologically, see William Wood, Culture and Personality Aspects of the Pentecostal Holiness Religion (The Hague: Mouton Co., 1965).

[38] For a wonderful biography of this highly anointed but not so saintly saint, see Edith L. Blumhofer’s Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody’s Sister (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993).
[39] Like tongues before 1900, this may be a spiritual phenomenon of the Kingdom that gets vastly under reported simply because it is not “named’ or publicized. See: Richard M. Riss, “Singing in the Spirit in the Holiness, Pentecostal, Latter Rain and Charismatic Movements,” paper delivered in “Orlando “95” conference July 28, 1995. Available at:
[40] Richard M. Riss, A Survey of 20th Century Revival Movements in North America (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988) 116.
[41] Riss, Survey, 119-120.
[42] D. William Faupel, “Glossolia as Foreign Language; Investigations of the early Twentieth-Century Pentecostal claims,” Wesleyan Theological Journal, 31 (fall 1996) 99.