Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

The Heavenly Anthem

10 May, 2011

In 1906, the Pentecostals in Los Angeles reported singing in tongues. In addition, they experienced a further Pentecostal phenomenon, which they termed the “Heavenly Anthem” which manifested as an ethereal corporate singing, and many participants and observers claimed to hear celestial accompaniment. Though enthusiastic singing was part of Pentecostal worship from the movement’s beginnings, ecstatic singing in tongues seems to have surfaced among those who eventually formed the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission and added a further dimension of deep spirituality to the meetings at the Mission and beyond.

The inaugural September 1906 issue of the Apostolic Faith, the official organ of the Azusa Street Mission reports:

Many have received the gift of singing as well as speaking in the inspiration of the Spirit. The Lord giving new voices, he translates the songs into new tongues, he gives the music that is being sung by the angels and has a heavenly choir all singing the same heavenly song in harmony. It is beautiful music, no instruments needed in the meetings.

Chronologically, Sis. Jennie Evans Moore, who later married William Seymour, was the first to experience heavenly singing on April 9, 1906 when she became the first woman to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost at prayer meetings on Bonnie Brae Street, she testified: “I sang under the power of the Spirit in many languages . . . “

One of the clearest descriptions of the “Heavenly Anthem” comes from Bro. Frank Bartleman, an itinerant Holiness evangelist who joined the Pentecostal movement and chronicled the advent of the Apostolic Faith in southern California. On June 15, 1906, Bartleman participated in the inspired singing while attending a service at Azusa:

It [the “Heavenly Anthem”] was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe. In the beginning, this manifestation was wonderfully pure and powerful . . . No one could understand this “gift of song” but those who had it. It was indeed a “new song” in the Spirit.

Bartleman was intrigued by the miraculous melodies :

It was a gift from God of high order, and appeared among us soon after the “Azusa” work began. No one had preached it. The Lord had sovereignly bestowed it with the outpouring of the “reside of oil,” the “Latter Rain” baptism of the Spirit. It was exercised as the Spirit moved the possessors either in solo fashion or by the company. It was sometimes without words, other times in “tongues.” The effect was wonderful on the people. It brought a heavenly atmosphere, as though the angels themselves were present and joining with us. And possibly they were. It seemed to still criticism and opposition, and was hard for even wicked men to gainsay or ridicule.

Missionary George Berg recognized some of the languages used by the singers, including Hindustani and Gujerathi. On Christmas Day 1906, the Azusa saints experienced the phenomenon during an all-day meeting, and the singing was fittingly interpreted: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.” According to Bro. Berg, “People are melted to tears in hearing this singing. It is the harmony of heaven and the Holy Ghost puts music in the voices that are untrained.”

Ever critical of the formalization of the developing Pentecostal movement, Bro. Bartleman attributed the demise of the Heavenly Anthem to the assertion of the “human spirit” and claimed that “they drove it out by hymnbooks, and selected songs by leaders.” The Heavenly Anthem seems to be a lost artifact of the earliest days of American Pentecostalism, though singing in tongues does continue with less frequency today. Ultimately, the miraculous musical manifestation brought a glorious power and presence of God and was evidence of the abandoned spirituality of our Apostolic Faith forefathers.

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Messages from Azusa Street

29 November, 2010

https://i0.wp.com/www.azusastreet.org/picts/AFNewspaper.JPGThe Azusa Street Mission is renowned as the epicenter of early Pentecostal revival and as the site of thousands of Spirit baptisms as sinners, Christian pastors, evangelists, workers, and international missionaries flocked to the humble clapboard building in a muddy side street of the teeming city of Los Angeles to take in the Pentecostal outpouring.  In addition to the mighty conversions, healings, and deliverances, Azusa Street also became an auditorium for divine communication as the apostolic gifts of prophecy and tongues and interpretation were restored to the Body of Christ.  Some of these messages were transcribed in The Apostolic Faith, the official organ of the mission published by Elder William Joseph Seymour and were disseminated around the globe through Seymour’s vast mailing list.

In the inaugural issue of The Apostolic Faith, Bro. Seymour indicates that “many have received the gift of singing as well as speaking in the inspiration of the Spirit.  The Lord is giving new voices, he translates old songs into new tongues, he gives the music that is being sung by the angels.”   The phenomenon of singing in tongues was commonly known amongst the early saints as the “heavenly choir” and was deemed one of the most unusual and stunning manifestations of the Spirit at the mission as the congregation would join in singing in unknown tongues.  One such song was interpreted:

With one accord, all heaven rings
With praises to our God and King;
Let earth join in our song of praise,
And ring it out through all the days.

Another heavenly anthem which was “sung through in the Spirit by all” said:

Jesus Christ is made to me
All I need, all I need; 
He alone is all my plea,
He is all I need.

Wisdom, Righteousness and Power
Holiness forevermore
My Redemption full and sure,
He is all I need.

 The Azusa adherents were strongly convinced that the outpouring of the Holy Ghost signaled the last great revival before the return of Christ, and they valued inspired prophecy and found in utterances, visions, and interpretations divine revelation of unfolding events.  One sister, “who is unlearned and works and [sic] washing and ironing for a living” received a message from the Lord prior to the commencement of the Azusa revival predicting the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War.  One Bro. H.M. Allen uniquely interpreted messages he received in tongues by recording them phonetically and consulting foreign language dictionaries to translate the English meanings.    Bro. Allen’s lexical work revealed “ . . . things that are speedily coming on the whole earth. “  While the Holy Ghost told him that he was “not at liberty to tell all,” he was bound to declare that “if He [God] speaks only two words they are well worth listening to.”  Lillian Keyes, daughter of a Los Angeles physician, gave a stirring message on the coming of the Lord in an African dialect recognized by veteran missionary Sister S.K. Mead:  “Jesus is coming again, coming again so soon . . . Prepare your hearts now, for the Lord is coming soon, and ye know not the hour.” 

Many of the messages glorified Christ and the work of the Holy Ghost.  One transcribed message said:  “The Spirit comes in mighty power upon His people.  Look up unto Jesus now and receive from Him.  O Jesus is my Almighty King . . . God came into the world to see and to save that which was lost. He has redeemed us by His own precious Blood.” 

In several issues of The Apostolic Faith, Bro. Seymour made an effort to make important theological clarifications about the gifts of prophecy and tongues.  He appealed to Paul’s writing in I Corinthians 14 to argue that tongues with interpretation is as valuable as prophecy.  Elsewhere, he defends the inclusion of women in the ecstatic gifts, citing I Corinthians 11.  He encourages women to work in humility, admonishing them:  “The more God uses you in the Spirit, the more humbled and meek and tender you are and [t]he more filled with the blessed Holy Spirit.”  To the man, he says:  “We have no right to a lay a straw in her way, but to be men of holiness, purity and virtue, to hold up the standard and encourage the woman in her work . . . It is the same Holy Spirit in the woman as in the man.  When one considers how very new these manifestations were in his church, it is remarkable that he possessed such a mature and orthodox view of the gifts of the Spirit in ecclesiastical context and practical operation.

 In many ways, the freedom of Pentecostals at Azusa to participate in the prophetic established a precedent for the greater movement.  Prophecy and tongues/interpretations remain an integral part of the modern Church.  It is interesting that the messages of the Los Angeles revival were transcribed and preserved, as this publication of interpretation of tongues was not widely continued beyond the first decade or so of the Pentecostal movement.  But, they heard in the inspirative words and songs the voice of the Lord promising revival and His soon return.  Though the utterances recorded in The Apostolic Faith are over a century old, they continue to thrill the soul with their spiritual power and anointed unction.

Charles Fox Parham & the Annihilation of the Wicked

1 September, 2010

Charles Fox Parham was theologically eclectic and possessed a sincere, if sometimes misguided, desire to cast tradition to the wind and rediscover an apostolic model for Christianity. Though he was intimately involved in the rediscovery of the Pentecostal experience, evidenced by speaking in other tongues, Parham’s personal tendency toward ecclesiastical eccentricity did much to remove him from the center of influence in the fledgling Pentecostal movement. One of his most controversial doctrines was the annihilation of the wicked, or the idea that the eternal punishment of sinners was simply death. Pentecostals broadly rejected this doctrine, and some boldly anathematized Parham as a heretic.

As a child, Parham was familiar with the Bible but had no strong religious influence in his life and claimed not to have heard “but one or two preachers before reaching the age of thirteen years . . . “ He was proud of this lack of spiritual training, believing that it provided him with a mind open to scriptural truth: “Thus with no preconceived ideas, with no knowledge of what creeds and doctrines meant, not having any traditional spectacles upon the eyes to see through, I scarcely knew anything about church and Sunday School. These facts are stated to show that any early Scriptures were entirely unbiased.” It certainly may account for some of his religious impressionability but hardly recommends him as theologically competent.

Parham’s ideas about the annihilation of the wicked were adopted from his wife’s grandfather, a disfellowshipped Quaker named David Baker. While working under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, young Charles Fox Parham held a revival at the Pleasant-Valley School House near Tonganoxie, Kansas and was an invited guest in the home of Mr. Baker. Through his own reading of the Bible, David Baker arrived at the conclusion that “eternal torment for the wicked” was not biblical. During the evangelist’s sojourn in Tonganoxie, the pair spent many hours studying the Scriptures, and Parham became convinced of Baker’s perspective. Thereafter, Parham also taught “the destruction of the wicked, though his teaching was rejected by many, and brought much opposition and bitter persecution.”

In the inaugural issue of his paper The Apostolic Faith, Parham propagated the doctrine in an article entitled “Questions on Immortality.” In catechetical style, Parham presented 37 questions on the topic, answered by a simple Bible verse. Following his line of reasoning, Parham teaches that 1) immortality belongs to God alone (I Tm. 1.17); 2) immortality is imparted only to the righteous (Rom. 2.7); 3) Sin brings death (Rom. 6.23); and 4) both the body and soul are destructible (Mt. 10.28). The audience is left to conclude that the sinner is damned only to death. Interestingly, Parham never uses the word “hell” in the article and does not address the many biblical references to eternal punishment.

William Joseph Seymour, who received training in the rudiments of the Pentecostal baptism under Parham in Houston, Texas, strongly denounced his mentor’s perspective in the January 1907 issue of his own paper published in Los Angeles, also named, The Apostolic Faith. Seymour appeals to the Lukan parable of Lazarus and the rich man to establish the premise that “ . . . there is no annihilation in God’s Word for the wicked, but there is a blazing and burning hell awaiting them.” Seymour says that if the destruction of the wicked were true, “then this rich man would have been burned into ashes, and there would be no more of him.” Seymour worries after those taken in the doctrinal error: “Many who have preached a no-hell Gospel will find out better when they die and come to judgment . . . May God help us to turn from sin and wickedness and not try to wrest the Scriptures, but take them just as they are written.” The entire article is a clear renunciation of the heresy of “no-hellism” and an impassioned plea to those who may have a false security about such a finite afterlife to come to repentance, paying heed to “God’s Holy Ghost preachers that are testifying to the Blood that cleanses from sin and warning of an everlasting hell.”

Ultimately, Charles Fox Parham’s errors isolated him from the greater Pentecostal movement. His meager remnant following based in Baxter Springs, Kansas continue to teach the annihilation of the wicked, but the doctrine is not espoused by any major Pentecostal body. In fact, “hellfire and brimstone” has become a cultural euphemism for pulpit-thumping Pentecostal preachers determined to spare sinners the awful torments of eternal damnation. Today, we still agree with that old-time maxim: “There is a heaven to gain, and a hell to shun” and continue our mission to see souls filled with the fires of Pentecost that they may escape the fires of Hell.

The Pentecostal Experience of William Booth-Clibborn

11 June, 2010

In 1921, William Edmond Booth-Clibborn preached a successful tent revival in Lodi, California. Inspired by the results, Bro. Booth-Clibborn suggested that the revival party continue meetings further south and set up a tent in Holtville. After acquiring the necessary permits and lighting, they began services. Sadly, heavy rains and low attendance literally quenched the fiery services. Unable to pay the light bill for the week of disappointing meetings, Booth-Clibborn and his comrades took temporary jobs as field hands, harvesting corn. The evangelist, unused to such labor and forlorn by his failure, did little work. Finally, he sat down, crestfallen and dejected.

In this moment of self-pity, the Lord began to deal with him. As heavent-sent words began to flow in his spirit, Bro. Booth-Clibborn began to sing the words to one of the greatest anthems of the Apostolic Church:

Down from His glory,

Ever living story,

My God and Savior came,

And Jesus was His name.

Born in a manger,

To His own a stranger,

A Man of sorrows, tears and agony.

O how I love Him! How I adore Him!

My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!

The great Creator became my Savior,

And all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him.

What condescension,

Bringing us redemption;

That in the dead of night,

Not one faint hope in sight,

God, gracious, tender,

Laid aside His splendor,

Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul.

Without reluctance,

Flesh and blood His substance

He took the form of man,

Revealed the hidden plan.

O glorious myst’ry,

Sacrifice of Calv’ry,

And now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”

This beloved song, which so gloriously articulates the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ, has inspired generations of Oneness Pentecostals and was perhaps Bro. Booth-Clibborn’s most enduring contribution to the movement.

William Booth-Clibborn was the grandson of General William Booth, British founder of the Salvation Army. Booth-Clibborn’s mother, Catherine, was a dynamic Salvation Army preacher and commanded the group’s work in France, Holland, and Belgium. William, named for her father, was born in France.

When William was a boy, his mother and father, Arthur, resigned their positions with the Salvation Army to pursue a more radical path. In 1902, the family joined Zion, Illinois, the utopian community led by John Alexander Dowie, a famous healing evangelist. Arthur was greatly influenced by Dowie’s message and began preaching holiness and healing on his return to England. Catherine also distinguished herself as an international evangelist and traveled extensively preaching amongst various evangelical groups.

In 1908, Arthur Booth-Clibborn learned of a burgeoning group of Pentecostals holding meetings in the Plumstead District of London. He persuaded his youngest son, William, to join him on the trip to London. On the train ride, Arthur asked his 15-year-old son, “William, don’t you think you ought to yield your heart to God afresh?” The question pricked his young heart. He had lost the zeal of his repentance experience at boarding school, and he approached the meeting in a small London mission hall with a renewed hunger for the Lord!

The service was led by a Mrs. Cantell, and the young William was transfixed by the passionate singing and speaking in tongues. Arthur Booth-Clibborn spoke eight languages, and William spoke five. The “strange language” was not recognizable to either, but Mr. Booth-Clibborn assured his son that “This is the unknown tongue you read about in Scripture.”

Mr. Alexander Moncur Niblock, a Baptist convert who had just received the Holy Ghost a few days before, was the speaker at the Booth-Clibborn’s first service. At the altar invitation, William made a strong repentance, praying from 10 PM ‘til 1 AM. He experienced a return of his zeal and desire for the Lord.

On Sunday, William and his father attended more Spirit-filled meetings at the Plumstead home of Mr. Bristow. At the evening service, William became insatiably hungry for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At the altar, he was enraptured by the presence of God, praying fervently, hungrily for the Holy Ghost:

I found myself singing in a beautiful language entirely foreign to me. Its charm and surprising sounds saturated me with an indescribable ecstasy. Every sweet sentence fully & adequately expressed the pent-up feelings of my inflamed heart . . . Direct from the altar of my heart, rising in surging burning billows, the most pleasing incense was reaching the Throne!

So began the experience of faith that led William Booth-Clibborn into an anointed ministry. He was later baptized in Jesus’ Name and proclaimed the great truth of the Oneness of God, joining the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Disillusioned with some of the later fragmentation of the Pentecostal movement, Booth-Clibborn eventually became less organizationally exclusive but maintained his Oneness stand, developing a remarkable Pentecostal ministry throughout his life. He founded several churches and led Immanuel Temple in Portland, Oregon until his death in 1969 at the age of seventy-six.

*Special thanks to Pat Clibborn, daughter-in-law of W.E. Clibborn, for granting an interview for this article.

D.C.O. Opperman: Pentecostal Pioneer and Pedagogue

24 October, 2009

September 15, 1926, Daniel Charles Owen Opperman was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to preach an evening service in the Baldwin Park area of Los Angeles.  After the Sunday morning service, Bro. Opperman was invited to dinner at the home of the Hoag family.  A daughter-in-law of the couple was driving a carload back to the church.  Crossing a track, the car was struck by a train.  Bro. Opperman was thrown from the vehicle, and his neck was broken.  His Bible lay beside him, and the coroner remarked at his dignified appearance, suspecting he was a doctor or lawyer.  So departed a great Pentecostal pioneer who was a dedicated teacher, evangelist, and pastor.

Charles Owen Opperman was born in Goshen, Indiana on July 13, 1872.  His parents, German immigrants, were members of the Dunkers, a sect that had left Prussia because of religious persecution.  Charles was raised to be God-fearing and developed a sober spirit.  When his father died, Charles was only fifteen and assumed responsibility for his widowed mother, two brothers and one sister.

Charles Opperman was hungry for knowledge.  In 1890, he graduated from Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, where he met Ella Syler, who he married on March 10, 1890.  Charles Opperman taught in several schools from 1892.

In 1899, Opperman was attending the famous Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and became acquainted with the work of John Alexander Dowie, an Australian evangelist whose meetings attracted thousands nightly.  In 1900, Dowie began Zion City, Illinois as a permanent home for his Christian Catholic Apostolic Church and a spiritual haven for his followers.  Drawn to Dowie’s message of holiness and healing, Opperman joined the community and added Daniel to his name.  He began teaching in the Zion school.  He also taught in the city’s college and was later named the Superintendent of Zion’s schools.  On the first Sunday in January 1902, John Alexander Dowie ordained D.C.O. Opperman as a deacon in the Chicago Auditorium.  Bro. Opperman said:  “God confirmed with a remarkable healing on the following Wednesday.  Mr. J.J. Smith was instantly healed of the grippe [influenza] in answer to prayer.”

Opperman was very active in the Zion work.  He was part of Dowie’s monumental campaign in New York City in October 1903.  Suffering from tuberculosis, D.C.O. Opperman resettled for a short time in San Antonio, Texas and worked alongside a Zion elder named Lemuel C. Hall.  Despite his failing health, Bro. Opperman was determined to preach.  He describes his miraculous healing in San Antonio:

In March 1905 went to San Antonio, Texas.  Health in a very dangerous condition.  Climate helped me some, but God helped me more.  Partial deliverances [sic] in answer to prayer.  On April 8, 1905 at about 7:30 P.M. stepped into Houston St. San Antonio near P.O. [post office] to herald the gospel of the kingdom.  God marvelously healed me and sanctified me.  God gave me great joy in my ministry in the street.

He returned to Zion in April but went back to Texas in March 1906 to preach at Zion gatherings in Houston.
In Houston, he became acquainted with Charles Fox Parham, who had moved Apostolic Faith operations from Topeka, Kansas.  Parham was preaching the Pentecostal baptism, and Opperman believed the message, though he did not initially receive the actual baptism.  He sent letters to Zion, urging followers to accept the Bible teaching of speaking in tongues.  In June 1906, Bro. Opperman traveled with Charles Parham to an Apostolic Faith convention in Galena, Kansas.  After those meetings, Parham accompanied Opperman to Kansas City, Missouri and spent five weeks preaching the Pentecostal message to the Zion faithful there.

In October 1906, Bro. Opperman began joint meetings of Zion and Apostolic Faith people in San Antonio.  He says: “Turned work over to Bro. Farr in November.  About 15 saved, several sanctified, several healed, and seven Pentecosts.”  Bro. Opperman did not personally receive the Holy Ghost until 1908.  His grave personality may have hindered him from yielding to God; but on January 13, 1908, he spoke in tongues privately for the first time in Belton, Texas. Bro. Opperman recorded twenty other “Pentecosts” during the nine-week Belton campaign. But on March 5, 1908, he spoke publicly in tongues at a meeting in San Antonio in an American Indian language that was translated.

On July 28, 1907, D.C.O. Opperman, who had lost his first wife in childbirth, married Hattie Ruth Allen, a young Pentecostal from San Antonio.  A year later, in July 1908, Bro. Opperman assumed duties as the State Director of the Apostolic Faith Movement in Texas and began traveling throughout the district, encouraging the fledgling missions and spurring revival.

Bro. D.C.O. Opperman is probably best remembered for his role in beginning Bible training schools for Pentecostal workers.  He conducted many short-term schools where Holy Ghost-filled saints were transformed in Gospel missionaries.  Many future leaders in the Pentecostal movement attended Opperman’s schools, including Ralph M. Riggs, who later became a General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.  Originally known as Schools of the Prophets, Opperman’s training centers were run along the faith line—no tuition.  Attendees prayed for what they got and got what they prayed for!  He assembled schools in such diverse places as Houston, Texas, Joplin, Missouri, Anniston, Alabama, Des Moines, Iowa, and Hot Springs, Arkansas.  In October 1915, Bro. Opperman organized the Ozark Bible and Literary School, a permanent Bible training institution under the auspices of the Assemblies of God, which he served as an executive presbyter.

When the revelation of the mighty God in Christ spread throughout the Pentecostal movement, Bro. Opperman accepted the message and was rebaptized in Jesus’ Name on September 12, 1915.  Interestingly, a final announcement of the Ozark school still appears a year later in August 1916 in The Latter Rain Evangel, a Trinitarian Pentecostal publication. Bro. Opperman began publishing his own paper, The Blessed Truth, propagating the Oneness message.  With the exodus of the Jesus-Only faction from the Assemblies of God in 1916, Opperman assumed the role of chairman in the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies. The Ozark school followed D.C.O. Opperman into the Oneness movement and became the Pentecostal Bible and Literary School with the GAAA’s merger with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1917. Bro. Opperman continued to labor for the Lord and led a German congregation in Lodi, California from 1923 to 1925.  His untimely death was sadly remarked by Bro. Howard Goss, who described him as “a handsome and commanding figure amongst us, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.”  Eternity will measure the extent of his Godly influence on the Pentecostal movement and the multitude of lives changed through the seeds of faith and knowledge that he sowed throughout his remarkable life.

Extra! Extra! Editorial Portrayals of the Early Oneness Movement

20 May, 2009

May 11, 1915, the Executive Presbytery of the Assemblies of God convened for a semi-annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. The announcement in the Weekly Evangel urged all presbyters to attend “as a number of important matters will be presented for deliberation and discussion.” Undoubtedly, the emerging “New Issue”, an early euphemism for the Oneness movement, was amongst the most important topics of the meeting. The Oneness doctrine, which spread quickly throughout the ranks of the Assemblies of God, represented a serious crisis for the fledgling organization as whole churches accepted the message of the Mighty God in Christ and submitted to rebaptism in the Name of Jesus. The printed call to the St. Louis meeting proved to be the commencement of the press war against Oneness, largely waged by Eudorus N. Bell, General Chairman of the Assemblies of God, and his powerful secretary, J. Roswell Flower. These men used the Weekly Evangel (later the Pentecostal Evangel), the official organ of the Assemblies of God, and other widely-read circulars to provide Trinitarian apologetics, discredit Oneness proponents, and to forge a semblance of unity that later led to the defection of the Oneness faction.

The germination of the Oneness movement actually predates the formation of the Assemblies of God, which organized in April 1914. Following the World Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting held in April 1913 in Arroyo Seco, California, several attendees began a careful study of the Scriptures and became convinced that Jesus Christ was indeed God Himself rather than God the Son. April 15, 1914, Bro. Frank Ewart, who was solidly persuaded of the scriptural teaching, erected a tent in Belvedere, California and began preaching the Oneness message and the corollary doctrine of baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ. The moment was pivotal for the Pentecostal movement, and Bro. Ewart said: “The shot had been fired, and its sound was destined to be heard around the world.” Like the allusive shot that began the American Revolutionary War, the rediscovery of New Testament truth revolutionized the Pentecostal movement, with soldiers on both sides volleying for their respective positions.

The first mention of some doctrinal disruption is made in the August 1914 Word and Witness. J. Roswell Flower published a short editorial admonishment entitled “In Doctrines”:

In doctrinal teaching we shall stand for the certain truths as ever and against the doubtful and uncertain. We do not believe in keeping the saints confused and divided over men’s new theories [illegible] in wild fanatical tendencies which tear up more than they build up. Yet, we must keep our sky-lights open so as not to reject any new light God may throw upon the old Word. We must not fail to keep pace in life or teaching with light from heaven. To this end we earnestly ask the prayers and cooperation of every child of God.

While there is no specific mention of the “New Issue” doctrine, it is clear that Flower is attempting to steady the ship. However, we should recognize that his language is tolerant, if not expectant. Flower is clearly concerned about the unity of Pentecostals on issues of doctrine but is also careful about encouraging openness toward spiritual revelation that is consistent with the Scriptures.

Following the meeting of the Executive Presbytery in St. Louis, Flower printed a front-page piece, “Preliminary Statement. Concerning the Principles Involved in the New Issue by the Presbytery”, in the Weekly Evangel. While the statement was ratified by the presbyters, it bears a marked resemblance to the August 1914 comments by Flower: “We stand for everything clearly revealed and set forth in the written Word of God . . . In so far as there is anything in the Scriptures which we have not seen as yet, or have neglected, we stand ready to accept and teach this whenever the same is shown to be the teaching and practice of the Lord and His apostles.” Interestingly, the dictum seems much less focused on modes of baptism than another controversy equating the Holy Ghost with the blood. Evidently, some were teaching that the resurrected Christ had “spiritual blood” which was the same as the “new wine.” As such, proponents were teaching that the Lord’s Supper commemorated the resurrection rather than his death. All said, the statement does evidence growing doctrinal diversity amongst Pentecostals. However, the fact that the statement is merely “preliminary” indicates that the presbyters believed that further study was necessary before making a solid pronouncement of any kind.

In May 1915, E.N. Bell authored a four-part series for the Weekly Evangel on the baptismal debate. This study clearly elevated the visibility of the Oneness controversy, and Bell painstakingly attempts to nullify “in the Name of Jesus Christ” as a “fixed formula”, arguing that baptismal references in the New Testament indicate only that the rite was performed “under the power of Christ and the anointing of the Holy Ghost” but that “the mere phrase is not the essential thing.” In June, Bell published the final article in the series devoted to examining the Book of Acts. Surveying the controversial history of Christian baptism amongst the early post-apostolic believers, Bell admits that history supports the use of both singular and trine invocation, but he clearly believes Trinitarian baptism to be the default form. He explicitly rails against the “modern Los Angeles explanation” (a reference to the work of Frank Ewart and Glenn Cook): “But these new revelators have turned the table. They have reversed all history. They have done the new and unheard of thing.” Bell is clearly attempting to expose Ewart, Cook and company as mere innovators, manufacturers of an extra-biblical doctrine.

In an apparent reversal of his early opinions, Eudorus Bell caused a great stir in the summer of 1915 when, after so vehemently opposing the “New Issue”, he was reimmersed in the Name of Jesus Christ at the Third Interstate Encampment of the Assemblies of God in Jackson, Tennessee. The act made front page news in the August 1915 Word and Witness. In September 1915, Bro. Bell published a statement in the Weekly Evangel tellingly entitled: “Who is Jesus Christ? Being Exalted as the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the True God of the New. A New Realization of Christ as the Mighty God.” Though he claimed to retain his Trinitarian view, which he admits he does not and cannot comprehend, the article is essentially an Oneness exposition of the doctrine of Jesus Christ as God Himself:

I can say to-day [sic], before God and all men, that His joy is rolling in my soul now as never before. As I write His glory convulses my whole physical frame, and I have to stop now and then and say ‘Glory’ or ‘Oh Glory’ to let some of it escape. Night before last, as I lay on my bed, I heard in the Spirit the sweetest, most soul-thrilling song of the wonderful name of Jesus I ever heard since I was born. If people knew what God is putting in my soul by a brand new vision of Jesus and the wonders hid in His mighty and glorious name, they would begin to shout and help me praise the Lamb that was slain who is now beginning to receive some honor and praise, but who will eventually make the whole universe-sea, earth, and sky, reverberate with the universal praise and honor to His great name. Hallelujah to His Name forever and ever.

He continues throughout the piece to expound on Christ as Jehovah, Father and Creator, revealed and uses a collection of traditionally Oneness reference to buttress his arguments (Is. 9.6, Jn. 10.30, Col. 2.9, and Rev. 1.17). Bell ultimately never disconnected himself from the Trinitarian Assemblies of God, but this interesting episode clearly wrecks his nascent, stalwart stand against the Jesus’-Name formula.

Another function of the Pentecostal circulars was to keep a clear roster of who was aligned with whom. Bro. Ewart, who viewed Bell’s rebaptism as a victory for the Oneness camp, printed an expanded version of Bell’s Weekly Evangel article in his own Oneness publication, Meat in Due Season. In fact, Bro. Ewart proposed in his history, Phenomenon of Pentecost, that the Word and Witness version was edited to the point of mutilation, omitting some of the stronger Oneness statements made by Bell (Ewart 103).

When Andrew Urshan cast his lot with the Oneness pariahs after his return from foreign missions work in 1919, the subject re-erupted in the Trinitarian Pentecostal press. Bell made the announcement of Urshan’s defection in the Christian Evangel in an article entitled, “Andrew Urshan’s New Stand. A Bit of Sad News.” Citing Bro. Urshan’s strong confession of faith in the Mighty God in Christ as published in his own periodical, Witness of God, Bell indicates that Bro. Urshan was willing to forfeit credentials with the Assemblies of God. He concludes the article with heartfelt concern for Bro. Urshan: “The above is given with deep, loving concern for Bro. Urshan and with no prejudice or illwill [sic] against him, only as new to the saints. Pray for God to guide Bro. Urshan.”

After the clear division of the Oneness and Trinitarian camps with the withdraw of Oneness ministers in 1916, the heated controversies subsided. Today, however, we recognize the role of these periodicals in making up the ranks. The attacks on “New Issue” doctrine and believers played a significant role in controlling the impact of the Oneness movement on the Assemblies of God but surely stoked the fires of Oneness zeal and indignation as well. Undoubtedly, Flower and Bell believed that they were defending orthodoxy and protecting their fellowship from grievous wolves. The articles do evidence the sharp division ultimately caused by the propagation of the truth. In the days before email announcements and online discussion forums, even before widespread interstate telephone networks or broadcast stations, Pentecostal circulars were the neural system of the movement. Despite efforts to disinherit and discredit the Oneness movement, the power of the pen could not thwart the sovereign move of the Spirit as many leaders and congregations within the Assemblies of God accepted the Bible message of salvation and the apostolic teaching of the mighty God in Christ.

Frank J. Ewart, Pentecostal Pioneer

9 November, 2008

On April 15, 1914, Frank J. Ewart delivered his first public sermon on Acts 2:38 in a tent on East First Street in Belvedere, California. Bro. Ewart’s decision to preach the message was the culmination of nearly a year of prayer and study and expressed the full salvation message taught by the New Testament Church. With this great conviction, Frank Ewart counted the cost and began teaching and preaching the wonderful doctrine of the Mighty God in Christ, baptizing converts in the Name of the Lord Jesus! What began that spring was a miraculous revival of truth, and Bro. Ewart’s obedience to the Word of God and the direction of the Holy Ghost sparked the modern Apostolic revival!Frank J. Ewart was born in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia in 1876. As a young man, he worked in the lumber industry and had aspirations to become a professional cricket player. In the midst of this pursuit, the young Ewart was arrested by a supernatural vision of the crucifixion of Jesus. He saw Christ upon the cross and lost all “ambition for worldly fame and popularity.” Ewart aligned himself with the Baptists and was appointed a “bush missionary” (Ewart 10). The Bush Missionary Society was founded in 1856 to minister to small communities in the remote outposts of the Australian frontier (Burgess 237). Ewart would travel to remote areas and begin a Baptist revival. Once a stable group was established a pastor would be sent, and Bro. Ewart would move on to a new location (Ewart 10).

In 1903, after a break in his health, Frank Ewart emigrated to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada. He became a Baptist pastor there and married. He and his wife were desperate for a deeper move of God and prayed continually for the effectiveness of their ministry. Bro. Ewart’s health continued to deteriorate; and in 1908, he was given a furlough from the Baptist Church.

During this time, he traveled to Portland, Oregon to attend a Pentecostal camp meeting and became convinced that the experience was real. He received an “insatiable hunger” for the baptism of the Spirit and tarried twenty-one days before receiving a glorious Pentecost:

I received a mighty infilling with the Holy Ghost. God left no room for doubt. I spoke in several known languages that I knew nothing about, and some of them were interpreted that night. I had asked the lord to let all diseases go out of my body when the Holy Spirit came in. He took me at my word and answered my prayer. (Ewart 12)

Returning to Canada, Bro. Ewart was defrocked by the Baptist Church for his insistence that speaking in tongues was the evidence of Holy Ghost baptism, but he remained strong in his persuasion that the Pentecostal experience was real.

In 1911, Bro. Ewart came to Los Angeles and participated in the great revival in that city. In 1912, he assumed the pastorate of William Durham’s Seventh Street Mission in Los Angeles after Durham’s untimely death. The mission was a center of Pentecostal revival where Durham taught and preached the “Finished Work of Calvary,” and Ewart continued his ministry there until April 1913, when he went to the World Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting “ready for God’s new move” (Ewart 90, 13).

The interstate camp meeting of 1913 is the stuff of Pentecostal legend. When Evangelist R.E. McAlister emphatically stated: ” . . . that the apostles invariably baptized their converts once in the name of Jesus Christ, that the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism”, some of the hearers, including Ewart, were inspired to research the claim (qtd. in Ewart 94). At the close of the camp meeting, R.E. McAlister, Glenn Cook, and Ewart began a Pentecostal mission on Main Street. After several months, the mission unified with Pastor Elmer K. Fisher’s Victoria Hall on Spring Street, and much emphasis was given to preaching and praying in the Name of Jesus. Still, baptism was administered according to the regular Trinitarian formula.

In the spring of 1914, Ewart became determined that “the only way to get apostolic results was to adopt apostolic methods and obey their precepts” and branched out from Victoria Hall (Ewart 96). Pastor Fisher, who did not initially accept Bro. Ewart’s message of baptism solely in the Name of Christ, helped him secure a tent, and meetings began in Belvedere. Glenn Cook came out the first night to hear Bro. Ewart preached, and the two secured a baptismal tank and rebaptized one another invoking the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ewart 96).

The results of preaching and baptizing in the Name of Jesus were incredible, and the tent filled completely:

One of the greatest, most startling characteristics of that great revival was that the vast majority of the new converts were filled with the holy Ghost after coming up out of the water. They would leave the tank speaking in other tongues. Many were healed when they were baptized. (Ewart 98)

God confirmed the pioneer’s obedience with remarkable results and dynamic conversions. The leader of the Owl Gang, who harassed Bro. & Sis. Ewart and had burned down the revival tent, was baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost; the Baptist Sunday School Superintendent was saved, and Sgt. J.D. Cornwall of the city police force was converted (Ewart 99, 104).

Bro. Ewart published Meat in Due Season, an influential Oneness periodical that spread the Apostolic truth far and wide. Through his ministry, writing, and the evangelism of Bro. Cook, who received Ewart’s message, many prominent Pentecostals became persuaded of the efficacy of baptism in the Name of Jesus, including Lemuel C. Hall, William Booth-Clibborn, A.H. Argue, Frank Small, George B. Studd, Elmer K. Fisher, R.J. Scott, Garfield T. Haywood, W.T. Witherspoon, E.G. Lowe, Raymond Hoekstra, W.L. Stallones, and Harry Morse (Ewart 101).

Bro. Frank J. Ewart died in 1947. He established and led a thriving church in Belvedere and authored several books. He was ordained with the United Pentecostal Church before his death. This man’s powerful revelation and Bible conviction was seminal in producing the modern Oneness Pentecostal Church, the true iteration of Apostolic Christianity. A great debt is owed to this faithful pioneer who sacrificed precious fellowship and his own good name to publish Acts 2:38 salvation and stand for the only name “given under heaven whereby we must be saved.”

Sources:

Burgess, H.T. John Howard Angas, Pioneer, Pastoralist, Politician and Philanthropist. Adelaide, Australia: Vardon & Pritchard, 1905.

Ewart, Frank J. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 2000.

“The Lady Evangelist”: Maria Woodworth-Etter and the Pentecostals

3 November, 2008

In 1912, Maria Woodworth-Etter burst on the Pentecostal scene, holding meetings at F.F. Bosworth’s influential church in Dallas, Texas (Bosworth, “Pentecostal . . . ” 10). Fred Bosworth, who was an early convert of Charles Parham in the failed utopian community of John Alexander Dowie’s Zion, Illinois, invited Woodworth-Etter to Dallas after hearing her speak in Indianapolis. A five-month campaign ensued in the city, and reports of the meetings were publicized in Word and Witness and the Latter Rain Evangel, which held wide circulation amongst Pentecostals. One such article describes a veritable heaven on earth:

The lame, the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the palsied, the paralytic, cancers, those suffering from operations, and others dying with incurable diseases, have been wonderfully converted and healed by the power of God. Sinners are converted and flock to Jesus for salvation; and Christians are baptized with the Holy Ghost. This meeting is nothing to what it shall be by the grace of God. Sister Etter will remain here for some months. (Bosworth, “Wonders of God . . . ” 3)

During her sojourn at Bosworth’s thriving work, Woodworth-Etter ingratiated herself to many Pentecostal audiences with her flamboyant and zealous preaching and her emphasis on holiness, healing, the power of the Spirit, and the preeminence of the Name of Jesus.

Maria Woodworth-Etter had a patchwork theological history. Her family joined the Disciples of Christ Church when she was a girl. She felt called to the ministry as a teenager, but Disciples of Christ disallowed female preachers. When she married Philo Harrison Woodworth, a Civil War veteran with little spiritual inclination, she resigned herself to the daily grind of agrarian life; but after the death of five of her six children, she began to yield herself to the calling. Despite opposition from her remaining daughter and husband, Woodworth-Etter could not resist the overpowering burden for souls that seemed to transfix her. She experienced a series of visions, including the suffering of souls in hell and unharvested fields of wheat. At last, her will was broken, and she answered “Yes, Lord; I will go” (Woodworth-Etter, DSW, 25-28). She attended several Quaker meetings, where she testified, but her preaching ministry began under the auspices of the United Brethren in 1880. In 1884, she received licensure with the Churches of God (Anderson, Indiana) as “Eldership Evangelist” (Warner 4, 30).

It is not at all clear when Maria Woodworth-Etter received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues, but she seems to have accepted the sign of the baptism, though she had no direct association with the Pentecostal Movement before the protracted revival in Dallas in 1912. She often referred to the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” in her journalistic books, but she never explicitly mentions speaking in tongues in any of her early writings, though her language is “Pentecostal”:

The power of the Holy Ghost came down as a cloud. It was brighter than the sun. I was covered and wrapped up in it. My body was light as the air. It seemed that heaven came down. I was baptized with the Holy Ghost, and fire, and power which has never left me. Oh, Praise the Lord! There was liquid fire, and the angels were all around in the fire and glory. (Woodworth-Etter 28)

Maria Woodworth-Etter was undoubtedly the most successful female evangelist of the early 20th Century. She attracted as many as 25,000 to a single service, and she crossed the country filling churches, halls, and tents with seeking souls (Warner 30). Her meetings were marked by the manifestations that many associated with frontier revivals of the early 19th Century, and her pulpit persona was commanding. A front-page New York Times article from January 1885, detailed some of the “strange scenes” at meetings held in Hartford City, Indiana: “Scores have been stricken down at these meetings, and whatever forms the limbs or body chance to assume in that position, immovable as a statue, they remained . . . ” Further, the newspaper described the revival’s charismatic leader: “The lady evangelist, Mrs. Woodworth, is a lady of fine physique, comely, and of a commanding appearance, and while not highly cultured and refined yet she is an impressive speaker, and when speaking keeps her hands in constant motion.” During the meeting, she was also subject to the ecstatic catalepsy and trances, which became a trademark of her campaigns (“Said to Be Religion . . . ” 1).

Her ministry was marked by controversy. Detractors often accused her of hypnotizing audiences. In 1890, Dr. Wellington Adams and Dr. Theodore Driller led a campaign in St. Louis to have Woodworth-Etter committed to an insane asylum (Warner 214). Dr. Arthur C. Bell, Dean of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, came to Woodworth-Etter’s defense in Dallas, praising the woman of faith and authenticating physical healings that he personally observed. He offers a catalog of miracles, concluding: “Mrs. Etter wants your soul saved, and then she will pray for your bodily healing. Both were provided for on the cross.” He also acknowledges the ferocious opposition of many medical physicians to Woodworth-Etter’s healing campaigns: “I have seen the doctors enraged over these healings. I have known that they called meeting after meeting of the Medical Association to discuss steps of suppressing her work. One would naturally ask why? The only reason I can imagine is that Jesus healed them after they had failed, and it reflected their ability” (Woodworth-Etter AHG, 119). Certainly, her ministry provoked both interest and awe.

Following the 1912 revival in Dallas, Wordworth-Etter included a number of Pentecostal churches, missions, and camp meetings in her evangelistic itinerary. Revival reports continued to appear in many Pentecostal circulars. She received accolades from very prominent early Pentecostal ministers including Stanley Frodsham, A.A. Boddy, George B. Studd, A.H. Argue, and G.T. Haywood.

In April 1913, Woodworth-Etter was invited to be the morning speaker at the World Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting in Arroyo Seco, California. Woodworth-Etter’s presence was an important boon to the convocation; though according to Frank J. Ewart, who attended the gathering: “Early in the meetings the preachers rebelled against turning the meetings over to Mrs. Woodworth Etter. There was a great desire to hear other of God’s servants, who might have a new message that would take us forward to the glory and power of ‘the faith once delivered to the saints'” (Ewart 93). Despite the apparent controversy, G.T. Haywood wrote of the camp meeting, offering a glowing description of the Woodworth-Etter services:

The power of God to heal was miraculous. Sick were brought from far and near, and multitudes were touched by the power of God through the instrumentality of His humble servant, Sister Etter, whose simple faith brought deliverance to many. The lame walked, the blind received their sight, the deaf heard, CANCERS were cured, TUMORS and TAPE WORMS passed away and dropsy and CONSUMPTIVES healed.
While there were many whose lack of faith hindered them from being healed, yet those who were healed were most re-remarkable [sic]. On one occasion many were healed as Sister Etter raised her hands toward heaven, while she was leaving the tent.

One afternoon such conviction fell on the sinners that many ran to the platform and were saved at once. It was a scene seldom, if ever, witnessed anywhere. There were times that the big tent resembled a battlefield on account of the many that were slain by the power of God. At times the power fell like rain, and the heavenly anthems filled the atmosphere (Woodworth-Etter, DSW, 253).

The Apostolic World Wide Camp Meeting is best remembered for the baptismal sermon delivered by R.E. McAlister that ignited the Oneness Pentecostal Movement. Before immersing a number of converts, McAlister noted that “the apostles invariably baptized their converts once in the name of Jesus Christ, that the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism” (Ewart 93-94). The question of Apostolic baptism spawned prayerful study of the Scriptures concerning the Godhead, and Ewart and others received the full revelation of the Mighty God in Christ. Despite Woodworth-Etter’s Christ-centered preaching and elevation of the Name of Jesus for healing and deliverance, she utterly rejected the Oneness revelation, which she seems to have sadly misunderstood. She called the doctrine “the biggest delusion the devil ever invented” and accused Oneness proponents of “denying the existence of the Father” (Liardon 856-857).

Maria Woodworth-Etter never became exclusively Pentecostal, but she continued to enjoy fellowship and popularity with Trinitarian Pentecostals throughout the remainder of her life. Her ministry continued to focus on divine healing and the Coming of Christ. She founded Woodworth-Etter Tabernacle in 1918 in Indianapolis, Indiana, which she led until her death in 1924 (Warner 277). A brief notice of her death appeared in The Pentecostal Evangel in September 1924, noting: “She has been the means of blessing to hundreds of thousands and many will rise up to call her blessed” (“Sister Etter with the Lord” 9). In many ways unorthodox, Woodworth-Etter never embraced the fullness of the Apostolic Faith, but her ministry was contributive. Her acceptance amongst Pentecostals paved the way for other women evangelists and Christian workers, and her acceptance of Pentecostals undoubtedly garnered greater respect for the fledgling movement as a valid expression of Christianity.

Sources:

Bosworth, Fred F. “Pentecostal Outpouring in Dallas, Texas.” Latter Rain Evangel, 10 July 1912, p. 10.

Bosworth, Fred F. “The Wonders of God in Dallas.” Word and Witness. 20 August 1912, p. 3.

Ewart, Frank J. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. (Hazelwood, MO: 1947), 93.

Liardon, Roberts. Maria Woodworth-Etter: The Complete Collection of Her Life Teachings. (Tulsa: Albury Publishing, 2000), 856-857.

“Said to Be Religion: Strange Scenes at ‘Revival Meetings’ Held in Indiana.” New York Times. 24 January 1885, 1.

“Sister Etter with the Lord.” Pentecostal Evangel, 27 September 1924, p. 9.

Warner, Wayne. The Healing & Evangelizing Ministry of Maria Woodworth-Etter. (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2004), 4; 30.

Woodworth-Etter, Maria. Acts of the Holy Ghost, or the Life, Work, and Experience of Mrs. M.B. Woodworth-Etter, Evangelist. (Dallas: John F. Worley Printing Co.), 1912.

Woodworth-Etter, Maria. A Diary of Signs and Wonders. (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1916), 25-28.

Edward Irving and the Pentecostal Baptism

16 July, 2008

     Edward Irving was a controversial and often conflicted preacher. His important legacy is the recognition of the continuance of New Testament spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues. The Catholic Apostolic Church, the denomination founded by Irving in 1833, was the culmination of his theological evolution, transitioning from an ordained Calvinist in the Church of Scotland, to the pastor of a large group of England’s social and ruling elite to the leader of working-class revivalism.

     The fervent preacher was educated at Scotland’s Edinburgh University and pursued post-graduate studies in preparation for entry into the ministry, learning French and Italian and reading extensively 16th and 17th Century theology, which he mimicked in his early pulpit ministry. His clerical success in Scotland was limited, and he accepted an invitation in 1822 to become pastor of the 15-member Caledonian Chapel in Hatton Garden, London. The sermons that had been perceived as pretentious by parishioners in Scotland were now viewed as powerfully engaging to London audiences, and the chapel began to fill on Sundays with hundreds of spectators. Irving attained a certain amount of fame and was introduced to London society through a growing network of enthusiasts. In 1823, George Canning, foreign secretary, observed in a speech before the House of Commons that the most eloquent preaching he had ever heard was at Irving’s Caledonian Chapel. Irving’s services were also patronized by the wealthy Mrs Basil Montagu, and Irving received invitations to Samuel Taylor Coledridge’s Highgate residence (Brown). Early in his pulpit career, Irving believed that true national revival was going to be affected through his influence with this circle of prominent people.

     In the mid-1820s, Irving developed an interest in prophecy and postulated about the pre-millennial sequence of final events, including the destruction of the Church, the rise of Jews in Palestine, the return of Christ, and the establishment of the 1,000 year reign of Christ and the saints. In time, he developed a dismal hopelessness about the prospects of Christianity in Britain, and his sermons and writings were filled with castigations against the lethargic Church and dire warnings of impending judgment and tribulation, hearkening back to the zealous sermonizing of the early Puritans. Titles like A Discourse on the Evil Character of These Our Times Proving to be the “Perilous Times” of the “Last Days” [1828] and Babylon and Infidelity Foredoomed of God [1828] epitomize Irving’s apocalyptic slant.

     In 1830, Irving began hearing reports of strange spiritual manifestations at the church of a friend in Rhu, Scotland. John Macleod Campbell’s congregation was experiencing outbreaks of fervent worship, prayer, and phenomena like quaking and speaking in tongues. Initially, Irving was skeptical, but he became persuaded that this may be a further sign of the end times. On 30 October 1831, a parishioner burst forth speaking in tongues at Irving’s London church. Though Irving silenced the expression, many in the congregation were disturbed. By November, Irving had fully accepted and allowed the free manifestation of speaking in tongues and interpretations in his church. The decision to accept the charismatic gifts of the New Testament distanced Irving from more intellectual and prominent parishioners, who began to leave the church en masse (Brown).
     Later that year, Irving published a treatise on the subject of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, identifying tongues as a sign of spiritual baptism and a mechanism of prophecy. The work is clear, and systematically sets forth a new theological position on the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Irving, antecedent to Charles Parham’s Apostolic Faith Movement by a full fourscore years, posits that speaking in tongues is evidential of the infilling of the Spirit:

These remarks are of the utmost importance, not only as confirming and entirely establishing the doctrine as to what the baptism of the Holy Ghost is not, but also for an end of charity, which, though I have kept it out of view, lest it should warp the reader’s judgment, I have had fully in my mind-namely, for preventing the church from falling into despair upon the discovery that she possesseth not the baptism with the Holy Ghost, whose standing sign, if we err not, is the speaking with tongues (Irving 28).

He identifies a falling away from Apostolic truths after the first three centuries and writes of recent ecclesiastical history: ” . . . we have no signs of the Holy Ghost’s baptism, nor tokens of an indwelling Father, to produce” (Irving 28). He prophetically challenges the Church to accept the work of the Holy Spirit and fears for the future of those who reject His manifestation:

 

 

My heart is exceeding heavy while I indite [sic] these things; for I feel assured that the time is near when the church in these lands shall be brought to this perilous test. We shall ere long have lifted up amongst us the full manifestation of the Holy Ghost, which is already present in the speaking with tongues; and when to this are added the other manifestations (and the time, I believe, is not distant), then things are come to a crisis with the church; and she must either decide for the Holy Ghost or against him, for her own salvation or her own perdition for ever and ever. It is the sense of this near and unknown crisis which chiefly moveth me to put forth these views of the baptism of the Holy Ghost; that, by the grace and mercy of God, I may do my part to prevent the overhanging ruin, and lead many, if not all, away from the brink of perdition unto the green pastures and still waters of peace and truth and love. (Irving 109)

     Irving’s theology placed him outside of the Calvinist tradition of the Church of Scotland, and he was indicted on charges of heresy on 13 March 1833. He returned to London and formed the Catholic Apostolic Church. The new church’s nomenclature demonstrates Irving’s commitment to recovering universal, New Testament faith. While the influence of Irving and his group ultimately proved to be limited, they were unquestionably theological forerunners of the early Pentecostal movement. As contemporary Apostolics, we can integrate Irving’s legacy into a history of the Holy Ghost’s workings throughout history, and we must admire Edward Irving for his theological commitment to groundbreaking truth, an allegiance which cost him the fellowship of revered clergy and affluent society. He counted the cost and is recorded in history as a man of conviction and passion equal to the task of non-conformity and spiritual rediscovery.

Sources:  

 

 

 

Brown, Stewart J. ‘Irving, Edward (1792-1834)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14473, accessed 9 March 2007]

Irving, Edward. The Day of Pentecost, or the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1831.

Tritheism Illustrated: the Problem of Trinitarian Representation

10 July, 2008

In his excellent study on Christian iconography, Adolphe Didron carefully maps the clear evolution of the Trinities in both art and architecture. In the most primitive extant examples, symbols of the Godhead may include the hand of God reaching from the clouds, the cross, the lamb, or the dove. No paradigmatic Trinitarian representation exists until the 4th century, and no instances are to be found either in the catacombs or upon ancient Christian sacrophagi (Didron 35). Many of the earliest works that combine these symbols present them in vertical descent, with a hand representing God the Father, a dove representing the Holy Spirit, and the cross representing Christ, the Son. The order significantly communicates an elementary tenet of germinal Trinitarianism, the notion that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and not the Son. This doctrinal position is still held by the Eastern Church while the Roman Church believes that the Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son. In any case, the earliest examples of Trinities are comprised of mere symbols.

During the 9th to 12th centuries, however, Trinities took on anthropomorphic form, and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost assumed human attributes. For centuries, Christ had been depicted as a young man. Remarkably, the Father and Spirit were also portrayed as young men, essentially identical to the Son. In fact, it is often difficult to distinguish between the persons, undoubtedly an effort to harmonize the artwork with the Athanasian concept of the cosubstantiality of the members of the Trinity.

In reality, these artistic representations reveal the core contradiction of Trinitarian dogma, that One God exists as three persons. The clear corporal disconnectedness of the three in many examples of art and architecture exaggerates the concept of the Trinity and destroys the scriptural unity of the Godhead, presenting, instead, three gods with no apparent cohesion.

In some Trinities, the Father, who is elderly, supports the Son suspended on the cross. In these cases, the Spirit is most often figured by the dove and proceeds from the mouth of the Father. Similarly, illustrations of Christ’s baptism generally employ the same vertical declension and the dove.
The Trinities and the artists’ innovations also took other forms. The introduction of geometrical shapes, predominantly triangles and interlocked circles, emphasized the triplicity of persons, and three became an important number in Gothic architecture. The trefoil, the silhouette of the three interlocked circles, implicitly conveys the Trinity and appeared in church windows and arches.
Such misrepresentations of the Godhead metamorphosed into the monstrous with the amalgamation of the Trinity into a one-headed being with three faces, sometimes having three or four eyes and three mouths atop a single body. While such examples flourished and attempted to portray, at least tenuously, the unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit, Pope Urban VIII prohibited such Trinities in 1628 and ordered that examples be destroyed (Didron 61).  Whether his anathemization was aesthetic or theological is historically unclear, but these Trinitarian representations stand in stark contrast to other examples where each person is completely individualized.

More disturbing are historical examples of Christian art in which Satan himself is depicted as a claw-footed, unholy trinity with three faces, often with three horns. Such pieces evidence the radical theological distortions of Trinitarianism and presents the devil as God’s equal opposite.

Of particular interest to modern Oneness believers is a 16th Century example of a three-faced Trinity, which includes an intricate schema using the inverted triangle capped by circles to represent the Trinity (Figure 2). The circles labeled Pater (Father), Filius (Son), and Spiritus Sanctus (Holy Spirit) are interpolated with the words “non est”, reading literally: “Father is not Son; Son is not Holy Spirit; Holy Spirit is not Father.” This is important because it was apparently created to rebut those who believed that the Father, Son, and Spirit were not personally distinct. There must have been Christians who were not making radical distinctions between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; otherwise, this theological message would not have been necessary.

Ultimately, artistic representations of the Trinity create images of a God divided and do not and indeed cannot preserve His unity. In all cases, three gods are figured, whether in symbol or person, revealing the impossible oxymoron of the underlying idea of a triune God. The inability of artists and architects to represent the complex doctrine without making an image of three gods further condemns the false notion of Trinitarian dogma and visually displays the ultimate departure of Trinitarian doctrine from essential monotheism of the ancient Jewish faith and the New Testament Apostolic Church.

Sources:

Didron, Adolphe Napoleon. Christian Iconography: the History of Christian Art in the Middle Ages. Trans. E.J. Millington. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. New York: 1886.