Archive for June, 2008

Raymond G. Hoekstra and the Latter Rain

29 June, 2008

During the 1940s, many Pentecostals became persuaded of the need for a renewal of Pentecostal revival. Despite the growth of the movement, the zeal of the first generation of Spirit-filled believers was waning, and organizational formations and doctrinal differences left the overall Pentecostal movement fragmented. A 1941 article by Albert Weaver, an early Pentecostal, noted: “The need for an outpouring of the Spirit upon His people, God’s spiritual grain, is not only a necessity, it is urgent. We are in great apostasy, and spiritual drought is visible everywhere” (5). In the midst of such dryness, some Pentecostals began to seek after a “new thing” to re-ignite the lost fervor, and the Latter Rain Movement, or “New Order”, which swept up many believers in its wild deluge, initially seemed to be a revitalizing force in Pentecostalism. Ultimately, the Latter Rain proved to be divisive and doctrinally unstable, presenting yet another significant crisis in the Pentecostal movement.The tenets of the Latter Rain are probably best summarized in a 1949 Assemblies of God resolution detailing the movement’s errors:

1. The overemphasis relative to imparting, identifying, bestowing or confirming gifts by the laying of hands and prophecy.
2. The erroneous teaching that the Church is built on the foundation of present-day apostles and prophets.
3. The extreme teaching as advocated by the “New Order” regarding the confession of sin to man and deliverance as practiced, which claims prerogatives to human agency which belong only to Christ.
4. The erroneous teaching concerning impartation of the gift of languages as special equipment or missionary service.
5. The extreme unscriptural practice of imparting or imposing personal leadings by the means of gifts of utterance.
6. Such other wrestings and distortions of Scriptural interpretation which are in opposition to teachings and practices generally accepted among us. (qtd. in Warner 16)

The resolution presents a clear picture of some of the aberrant notions of Latter Rain proponents. The movement was anti-establishment, and undermined general teachings about the Church, magnifying spiritual gifts over ecclesiastical authority and equating contemporary inspiration with Scripture.

The Latter Rain movement had its beginnings at Sharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada where on 12 February 1948 Bible school students experienced “God moving in [their] midst in a strange new way” (qtd. in Warner 16). A lengthy prophecy detailed the coming move of God, and gifts of healing began to manifest at the school. The “revival” soon spread to the Northwestern United States and was carried throughout North America, where it impacted a number of healing revivalists. Promises of divine healing and spiritual renewal drew thousands into the stream, and evangelists carried the Latter Rain message to city after city attracting both Onenenss and Trinitarian Pentecostals who were willing to minimize doctrinal distinctions to embrace what they accepted as the latest iteration of revival.

In Indiana, one of the most well-known casualties of the Latter Rain movement was Raymond Hoekstra, pastor of Calvary Tabernacle. Bro. Hoekstra assumed the pastorate of the 32-member Fletcher Pentecostal Church in 1937. This was his first foray into pastoral ministry. Bro. Hoekstra had been saved as a young man at the Anchor Rescue Mission in San Jose, California and began his pastorate in Indianapolis only four years later (Hoekstra GPG 16; Basore). The small church grew rapidly to over 200 under his leadership, and they eventually razed the small frame building and erected a block structure renamed Calvary Tabernacle (Basore).

Bro. Hoekstra’s difficulties began in 1949 with a revival invitation to a child evangelist, David Walker, known as “Little David.” While Little David had early experiences at the Apostolic Gospel Tabernacle in Long Beach, California, his father, recognizing the boy’s call to preach at the age of 9, soon expanded his itinerary to include Foursquare and Assemblies of God churches (Walker LDMB 17 & Walker Interview). David Walker says that as a child he really had no sense of doctrine and felt comfortable preaching at Oneness and Trinitarian meetings (Walker Interview). He came to Calvary for revival, and Bro. Hoekstra scheduled a crusade in the 10,000-seat Cadle Tabernacle at the corner of New Jersey and Ohio where Little David preached to a full house. The meeting changed Bro. Hoekstra, as he embraced the mysticism of the Latter Rain movement. At Calvary, he began to believe that healing oil was flowing from his hands, and some saints claimed the same experience. He also began to question evidential tongues and told some tarrying for the Spirit to simply “repeat after me” (Basore).

 

 

The present coming together of the hearts of God’s people is a move of God in believers [sic] hearts. A divided leadership has taught Christians to separate themselves from other Christians over doctrinal and denominational differences . . . Christians have been chained to religious machines. Often they were forbidden to attend other assemblies or fellowship with other Christians because of doctrinal or organizational differences. (Hoekstra LR 36-37)

In September 1950, a brief announcement appeared in The Pentecostal Herald: “This is to advise all concerned that Raymond G. Hoekstra is not in fellowship with the United Pentecostal Church” (“Notice . . .” 11). After working with Little David for approximately three years, he went on to work full-time in prison ministry, a work that he had begun in Indianapolis visiting the reformatory at Plainfield and the state prison in Michigan City (Hoekstra GPG 17). Bro. Hoekstra never returned to the Apostolic Faith. Like so many others, he was washed away in the cloudburst of the Latter Rain, but he left behind a thriving church in Indianapolis that built upon his revival foundation to become one of the great assemblies of the United Pentecostal Church.

Sources:

Basore, Robert and Emma. Personal interview. 15 May 2008.

Hoekstra, Raymond G. God’s Prison Gang. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1977.

Hoekstra, Raymond G. The “Latter Rain” Portland, OR: Wings of Healing, 1950.

“Notice to Ministers of the United Pentecostal Church.” Pentecostal Herald. Vol. 25 No. 9, September 1950, p. 11.

Walker, David. Introducing Little David: “Teen-Age Miracle Boy Preacher in the Ministry of Miracles, Preaching and Healing for the Nations. St. Petersburg, FL: Little David Books, 1955.

Walker, David. Personal Interview. 29 April 2008.

Warner, Wayne. “Reaction of the A/G to the Latter Rain.” Heritage 1 September 1987, pp. 16-19.

Weaver, Albert. “The Need for Spiritual Rain.” Pentecostal Evangel. No. 1398, 22 February 1941, p. 5.

Michael Servetus: Heretic or Hero?

18 June, 2008

On October 27, 1553, Michael Servetus was burned alive in Geneva, Switzerland, accused by John Calvin of heresy for his denial of the Trinity (Wilbur, Two Treatises xxv). Servetus purportedly studied law in Toulouse and medicine in Paris and is credited with the initial discover of pulmonary circulation. In 1531, just over twenty years of age, Servetus published De Trinitatis Erroribus (On the Errors of the Trinity), deconstructing the Nicene conception of the Godhead and arguing for God’s complete monadity. In a courageous effort to interpolate what Servetus believed to be a primitive and Apostolic view of the person of Jesus Christ into the Protestant Reformation, Servetus introduced his position to John Calvin, the famed theologian during his tenure in Paris (Walker 326-327). Calvin rejected the young man’s ideas and eventually secured his extermination, a strange and heinous interlude in Protestant history.

An examination of the treatises of Servetus reveals a sophisticated and Biblical rejection of radical Trinitarianism. He fully articulates the absurdities of Tri-unity and shows the doctrine’s logical degradation into pure tritheism. While antitrinitarianism is common enough during the Reformation era, most exchanged the heresy of the Trinity for equally damnable doctrines, denying the divinity or humanity of Jesus Christ. Denying both of these extremes, Servetus lands very near the modern Oneness position, describing the dual nature of Christ without any of the philosophical additives of trinitarian apologists.

Servetus anchors his arguments in the man Christ Jesus, progressing from his humanity to His Sonship to His deity. While he attributes, full Godhead to Jesus, he cannot accept the corporal eternality of the Son, but admits the conceptual eternality of the Word: “The Word existing before creation, was begotten when first uttered by God, and was afterwards incarnate in the flesh of Christ . . . The Word was never the Son” (Wilbur, Two Treatises 105). Rather, Sonship is attributed to the manifestation of God in Christ, and Servetus firmly believes that Jesus Christ is God in flesh: “For Christ after the inward man (to speak in the manner of Paul) means something divine, resulting from an inward anointing divinely done. According to the flesh, he is man; and in the spirit he is God, because that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and, God is Spirit (Wilbur Two Treatises 17).

In identifying the two natures resident in Christ Jesus, Servetus preserves God’s unity while admitting the uniqueness of the God-man. He appeals to the simplicity of Apostolic exposition: “Paul did not say that there are two beings and one Nature, or that the second Person is of equal Essence with the first” (Wilbur, Two Treatises 30). Servetus views the sophisticated post-Apostolic philosophizing about natures, persons, and substance as completely foreign to the straightforward New Testament understanding of Christ and absolutely indicts Trinitarians outright:

For they [Trinitarians] also contrive three Gods, or one threefold God. These three Gods of theirs form one composite Ouisia; and although some will not use a word implying that the three have been put together, yet they do use a word implying that they are constituted together, and that God is constituted out of three beings. It is clear, therefore that we are Tritoites [tritheists], and we have a threefold God: we have beomce Atheists, that is, men without any God. For as soon as we try to think about God, we are turned aside to three phantoms, so that no kind of unity remains in our conception . . . for the kingdom of heaven knows none of this nonsense. (Wilbur, Two Treatises 34-35)

Remarkably, the historical Servetus is often adopted by Unitarians, who seek to aggregate all antitrinitarians into their humanist view of Jesus Christ, which is really Arianism, or the belief that Jesus Christ was sent by God but only as a man, a prophet whose message and goodness are an example to those who seek God. Jesus is creature and not Creator. Dr. Earl Morse Wilbur begins his acclaimed history of Unitarianism with Servetus, calling the publication of De Trinitatis Erroribus, the “initiation” of the Unitarian movement (Wilbur, A History 3-4). However, Servetus rails against Arius: “For when Arius held the very foolish view that the Son was of different Substance from the Father, having also no appreciation at all of the glory of Christ, he introduced a new creature, more exlated than man . . . he fell into the most abominable error” (Wilbur, Two Treatises 22). Certainly, Michael Servetus was not an Arian.

Servetus viewed his theology as a possible catalyst for greater reformation in the Church, a return to a more primitive and Apostolic view of Jesus Christ, free from the layers of creed and tradition. When he attempted to draw John Calvin into a correspondence on the issue of the Trinity, the missives soon turned abusive and Calvin arranged for his name to be given to the Inquisitor at Lyons. Servetus was soon arrested but escaped the following morning (Wilbur, Two Treatises xxiii-xxiv). Despite his absence, the Catholic court tried the case and sentenced Servetus the “death by slow fire”, even carrying out the judgment in effigy. In August 1553, Servetus entered Geneva, Switzerland and was apprehended after being recognized in a church service where John Calvin was preaching (Walker 332). Calvin moved quickly to try and execute Servetus, keeping him imprisoned in deplorable conditions. Tied to the stake and ignited, the faithful Servetus, who refused to recant, died with a prayer upon his lips, an invocation that synopsized his doctrine: “Jesus, thou Son of the eternal God, have pity on me!” (Walker 342). He did not pray to the eternal Son but to the eternal God! Calvin garnered criticism for his action and continued to publish refutations against Servetus and even a book in defense of the martyrdom with the explicative title Defense of the Orthodox Faith Concerning the Sacred Trinity against the prodigious errors of the Spaniard Michael Servetus, where it is shown that heretics are to be punished with the sword and in particular that this so impious man was justly and properly punished at Geneva (Bainton 265).

Michael Servetus undoubtedly possessed clarity of revelation unequalled in his age. While it is impossible to make a point by point comparison between every tenet of Servetus’s doctrine and Oneness, the parallels and foundational premises are strikingly alike. Truth has never been completely extinguished in any age, and Servetus certainly represents a bold attempt at Apostolic rediscovery. The strange episode is obscured by the mythic legends of Protestant glory, especially the famous Calvin, but the heroic Servetus drank the martyr’s cup and died faithful to his conviction that Jesus Christ was at once human and divine, flesh and God.

Sources:

Bainton, Roland H., trans. Concerning Heretics, an anonymous work attributed to Sebastian Castellio. New York: Octagon Books, Inc., 1965.

Walker, Williston. John Calvin: the Organiser of Reformed Protestantism 1509-1564. New York: Shocken Books, 1906.

Wilbur, Earl Morse. A History of Unitarianism Socianism and its Antecedents. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1947.

Wilbur, Earl Morse, trans. The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity. London: Oxford University Press, 1932.

 

“For the Remission of Sins”: Ancient Writings on the Efficacy of Baptism

5 June, 2008

Water baptism is the most ancient rite in Christianity, and the New Testament is replete with examples of baptism by immersion from John’s baptism of repentance in the River Jordan to the proselytes of the Apostles to the epistlary metaphors of baptism as burial with Christ (Rom. 6:4) and Noah’s ark (I Pt. 3.20-21). While most Christian denominations observe some ordinance of baptism, the majority of Protestants reduce the act to a mere public profession of faith, decrying the doctrine of remission of sins in baptism as “salvation by works” rather than “salvation by grace.” In fact, neither biblical exegesis nor history divides baptism from salvation. Patristical writings, which are non-canonical, post-Apostolic epistles and apologetics, provide ample evidence that early Christians universally accepted water baptism as the sole mode for remitting sins.

St. Clement, purportedly the same Clement named by Paul in Philippians, asks in a letter to the Corinthians: ” . . . shall we, if we keep not our baptism pure and undefiled, come into the kingdom of God?” (Hoole 57). Clearly, Clement identifies Christian baptism as the moment of cleansing. St. Barnabas examines foreshadowing of baptism and the cross in the Old Testament: “Concerning the water, it is written with respect to Israel, how that they will not receive the baptism that bringeth remission of sins, but will establish one for themselves” (Hoole 86). Further, he writes: “Learn ye: having received the remission of our sins, and having hoped upon the name of the Lord, we have become new, having been again created entirely” (Hoole 97). These passages explicitly connect the erasure of sins with water baptism, and Barnabas explains that this accompanies hoping on the Name of the Lord, the most primitive apostolic baptismal formula.

The Shepherd of Hermas, a 2nd century apocalyptic work, supports both the notion of baptism by immersion and for spiritual cleansing: ” . . . we went down into the water and obtained remission of our former sins” (Lightfoot 425). Hermas, like Barnabas, refers to invocation of the Name of Jesus in the rite: “‘For before a man,’ saith he, ‘has borne the name of [the Son of] God, he is dead; but when he has received the seal, he layeth aside his deadness, and resumeth life. The seal then is the water: so they go down into the water dead, and they come up alive” (Lightfoot 472). Baptism in the Name of Jesus is, in Hermas, regenerative.

Justin Martyr expanded the biblical baptismal formula to “in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit”, but he retained the Apostolic teaching of baptism for the remission of sins: “[We] may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings” (Roberts and Donaldson 60).

While the New Testament doctrine of water baptism by immersion solely in the Name of Christ degenerated with the increasing schisms and encroaching apostasy of the early Church, the nascent Catholic communion retained the biblical connection between baptism and the remission of sins. The Roman Creed, which dates from the 3rd century, includes a generic belief in the “remission of sins”, and the 4th century Nicene Creed says: “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” Though most Protestants eschew the idea of spiritual regeneration in the baptismal ceremony, the scriptural view espoused by modern Oneness Pentecostals is greatly supported both by the primary text of God’s Word and the most ancient bishops and apologists for the Christian faith. Baptism is an indisputable element of the New Birth; and by faith in the redemptive work of the blood of Jesus Christ, our sins are truly washed away in the fountain of His forgiveness.

Sources:

Hoole, Charles H., trans. The Apostolic Fathers, the Epistles of S. Clement, S. Ignatius, S. Barnabas, S. Polycarp together with the Martyrdom of S. Ignatius and S. Polycarp. London: Irvingtons, 1872.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber, trans. The Apostolic Fathers. London: Macmillan and Co., 1898.

Roberts, Alexander Rev. and James Donaldson, trans. Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. Edinburgh: L & T Clark, 1867.

1924: Redrawing the Color Line

3 June, 2008

Interracial Leadership Group from Azusa StreetIn 1918, the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World merged, unifying Oneness Pentecostals into a large, interracial body. After being ousted from the Assemblies of God in 1916, the “Jesus Only” faction soon organized into the GAAA under the leadership of Daniel C. O. Opperman. The organization was destined to last only a short while. When the United States entered World War I on April 16, 1917, the government refused to recognize combat exemption for ministers of the fledgling church. In addition, GAAA ministers did not qualify for clergy train fare rates. For these two reasons, the organization sought a merger with the older Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (Clanton 29-30).

The PAW had a nebulous beginning in Los Angeles in 1906. Initially, few records were kept, which is not surprising considering the reticence of early Pentecostal believers to organize or to model themselves after the traditional denominations from which they had emerged. The alignment of the PAW with the Oneness camp may be historically attributable to the influence of Bishop G.T. Haywood, pastor of the large Pentecostal work at 11th & Senate in Indianapolis. Haywood along with his entire congregation accepted rebaptism in Jesus’ Name and the doctrine of the mighty God in Christ when Glenn Cook, Pentecostal pioneer and evangelist, came through Indiana in 1915 preaching the Oneness revelation.

While the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World was interracial from its inception, the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies was essentially a white organization. The merger of these two groups recreated the racial unity that characterized the Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. Bro. Frank Bartleman, journalist and chronicler of the Pentecostal movement in Los Angeles, said of Azusa Street: “The color line is washed away in the blood!” The mission, led by Bro. William Joseph Seymour, a black brother, became a bastion of multiracial unity as believers of every race and color gathered in the makeshift mission to experience the democratizing power of the Holy Ghost. When the GAAA joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, retaining the latter name, an initial, conscious effort was made to maintain racial integration.

Unfortunately, the merger was plagued by problems from the beginning. The most critical difficulty seems to have been the location of the annual conference. The South was considered too racially sensitive, and meetings had to be held in the North. At a time when Pentecostals were much less affluent, many Southern ministers could not afford to attend conventions in Northern cities. In 1922, leading white ministers in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World organized the Southern Bible Conference. William Booth-Clibborn’s record of the meeting, A Call to Dust and Ashes, describes a glorious visitation of the Holy Ghost and a prevailing unity and anointing, but the exclusive convention offended many of the black PAW brethren (1).

The following year, the General Conference adopted Resolution 4, with devastating results. The resolution read:

Be it further resolved, that because of conditions now existing in many parts of the country through no fault of the brethren, but rather those that oppose the work of the Lord, it is deemed advisable that two white Presbyters sign the credentials for the white brethren (especially in the southland) and two colored Presbyters sign the papers of the colored brethren. (Golder 78)

While the wording of the resolution seems to suggest the necessity of this measure due to external social forces, it seems likely that the real reason for the policy was racial prejudice. Oneness historians sharply disagree on the meaning and context of Resolution No. 4. White writers like S.C. McClain and Arthur Clanton attribute the adoption to the social mores of the South, repeatedly arguing that racial integration was hindering the work of the Lord, especially below the Mason-Dixon line. Bishop Morris E. Golder, PAW historian, logically asks: “How could any person picking up a credential and looking at the signatures tell who wrote them? Would the ink of the black man be different from that of a white man?” (79). The fissure that began with the passage of Resolution No. 4 broadened over the next year; and at the close of the 1924 General Conference, a majority of the white brethren withdrew and formed the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance, electing L.C. Hall as the first chairman (Clanton 46).

While it is difficult to recapture the social context that led our predecessors to divide into essentially white and black organizations, Oneness Pentecostals should work at every level to restore greater interracial fellowship and cooperation. Manmade organizations can never replace the true unity of Apostolic believers and the transcendental power of our common Acts 2:38 salvation. Huge strides in fellowship have been made by both the United Pentecostal Church and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, and we look forward to the day when Christ’s prayer “that they all may be one” (Jn. 17:21) is fully answered when the saints of every color and creed gather at God’s great throne!

Sources:

Clanton, Arthur. United We Stand: a History of Oneness Organizations. Hazelwood: MO: Pentecostal Publishing House, 1970.

Booth-Clibborn, William. A Call to Dust and Ashes. St. Paul, MN: 1924.

Golder, Morris E. History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Indianapolis, 1973.