Pentecostalism

The Start

  • In October 1900, 29-year-old Agnes Ozmen matriculated at the freshly founded Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas.
  • Former Methodist, later Holiness pastor Charles Fox Parham directed students to read the book of Acts with more alertness to every mention of the Spirit.
  • He emphasized on below two points
  • Outward manifestations always accompany the Spirit’s activity, and (2) speaking in tongues is the outward sign, the proof of baptism in the Holy Spirit.
  • A watch night service was announced for New Year’s Eve. Parham, placed his hands on Miss Agnes at her request, praying that she would receive baptism by the Holy Spirit.
  • Witnesses report that Miss Agnes, for the next three days, spoke and wrote only in Chinese. Parallel with the event reported in Acts 2 at the feast of Pentecost, the miraculous “tongue” reportedly spoken at Topeka was a known, extant human language foreign to the speaker.
  • Amid the subsequent spread of the movement did reports of such technically “Pentecostal” tongues arose.
  • Theologically, the events at Topeka retain the strongest claim as the scene of the birth of Pentecostalism.
  • Interpretation of these events gave birth to new doctrine that turned Holiness believers into the first self-consciously Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ, and they believed: speaking in tongues is the normative external sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is the spiritual birth right of every Christian.
  • A century and half earlier, John Wesley had taught that a second work of grace post-conversion was possible, desirable, and pursuable by converts to Jesus Christ.
  • The Methodist movement Wesley inspired gave birth to the Keswick Convention and conferences and the Wesleyan-Holiness and Higher Life movements out of which Pentecostalism sprang.
  • These Holiness churches emphasized the importance of Holy Spirit-produced second and even third works of grace.
  • One group, for example, identified regeneration, sanctification, and baptism in the Spirit as three stages of outpourings of the Spirit proper to the normal Christian life.
  • Terms such as “second blessing,” “entire sanctification,” “being filled with the Holy Spirit,” “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” or “baptism by the Holy Spirit” became identity markers amid a rapid movement giving birth to countless independent churches as well as full-blown denominations like the Pilgrim Holiness Church and the Church of the Nazarene.
  • All these Holiness groups insisted that the miraculous gifts reported in the New Testament continue beyond the apostolic age into the present day church.
  • Early Pentecostals hadthe insistence that speaking in tongues is the normative outward sign of the normative baptism by and in the Holy Spirit.
  • The second pivotal event occurred when African American Holiness-turned-Pentecostal pastor William J. Seymour made his way to Azusa Street in Los Angeles to preach.
  • Seymour, a former student of Parham and son of a slave, witnessed the outbreak of a revival that would not abate for three years.
  • This multi-racial, multi-class eruption of miraculous gifts (charismata) pumped out Pentecostal evangelists, missionaries, and ministers
  • From the beginning many Pentecostal churches began as independent entities and chose to remain so.
  • Slowly it moved into the mainline denominations like Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and all over and people from different denominations started practicing tongues and prophesies.
  • But hundreds of Pentecostal denominations arose as well, including this one: “The founding fathers and mothers of the Assemblies of God to promote unity and doctrinal stability, establish legal standing, coordinate the mission enterprise, and establish a ministerial training school.”
  • Of some 280 million Pentecostals worldwide, more than 67 million belong to the Assemblies of God.
  • Earlier Pentecostals from the Pentecostal movement slowly drifted on Orthodox Christian doctrine on Trinity. They called themselves oneness Pentecostals.

Neo Pentecostalism and Prosperity preaching

  • The roots of the so-called prosperity gospel and health-and-wealth gospel that grew up out of Pentecostal soil trace back to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  • They preached saying, does not God place his children in a garden paradise and take them to a promised land where he makes their crops, livestock, and jewellery heap up and overflow? Does he not promise ultimately to set his adopted children down at a messianic feast in a New Jerusalem traversed along streets of gold? Was not Jesus the Great Physician? Does not God himself make us expect and yearn for the end ofcrying and pain and death?
  • By the 1980s the conviction that God wills the physical health and the material wealth of every follower of Jesus Christ essentially supplanted preaching about much of anything else within many Pentecostal churches.
  • The means for accessing such benefits was also identified— “name it and claim it.” From the ecclesial soil of Pentecostalism grew first the prosperity gospel and then the Word of Faith movement.

Pentecostals and Charismatics

  • Pentecostals are charismatics in that they pursue and report experience of the charismatic gifts.
  • The Vineyard Church is widely viewed as the first charismatic denomination.
  • The charismatic movement emerged apart for Pentecostalism, but these communities cross-pollinated with their gift-practicing siblings in significant ways.
  • Significantly, the new charismatics rarely treated tongues or any other outward manifestation as the necessary sign of Spirit baptism, making them immediately more compatible with others inside and outside their denominations who did not manifest the gifts. That gives them room to be part of any denomination and still call themselves Charismatics or continualist.

Implications:

1.First of all, we must see what does the Bible say about these things rather than what do we want or feel. Bible clearly teaches that the sign gifts are given for a purpose. We see slowly the sign gifts ceased in the later stages of the Apostles and it completely ceased after the apostolic age.

2.Secondly, we must know what the church history teaches us. We don’t see these gifts operative or even mentioned normative in the church for almost 1800 years post apostolic age and all of a sudden in 20thcentury people claim that God gives these sign gifts. This should cause us to doubt the authenticity of the claim.

3. Even if we think sign gifts are given today just for argument’s sake, will not God give to the Bible believing and most godly people, rather than the people who do not believe the truth like the ones who deny the Trinity, to prosperity believing people even to Catholics who claim to receive these gifts. All these points out to be a false claim.

4.  In church history, we look at movements and people moving away from the established churches because they wanted to stand for the truth of God’s word, like reformers, Anabaptist or Lutherans. Whereas if we look at this whole movement of Pentecostalism itstarted away from the truth and continue to further drift away from the truth.

5.We should always stick to what the Bible says and what does it teachholistically and know essential truths the people of God have always believed in the last 2000 years.   That’s very important. That’s why knowing church history, confessions of true church, and understanding systematic theologyis so important so we don’t’ fall prey for these neo movements which will take us away from the truth of God’s word.  

Foot notes:

https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-58/silent-pentecostals.html

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