Saturday, November 26, 2016

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The People of the Name - Introduction

[In the next several posts, I will present several chapters from my dissertation, The People of the Name: Oneness Pentecostalism in the United States (Florida State University, 1985).  Each subsequent post will focus on the emergence of apostolic Pentecostalism as a distinct voice within American classical Pentecostalism.

NOTE: This presentation dates from the early 1980s and is limited to resources archived at this time. Since this time, many primary sources of early Pentecostal history have become available. Newer works on the rise and message of oneness Pentecostalism are strongly suggested, including David Reed’s In Jesus’ Name: The History and Beliefs of Oneness Pentecostals and Talmadge French’s Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism: G. T. Haywood and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (1901-1931).

This work also focuses on the Frank Ewart - G. T. Haywood - W. T. Witherspoon school of oneness thought which holds all “3 steps” of Acts 2:38 – repentance, water baptism administered by immersion with the invocation of the name “Jesus,” and Spirit baptism evidenced by glossolalia – as necessary for the “new birth” or “full salvation.” This view was rivaled by a “2 step” view which holds the more traditional classical Pentecostal view that “new birth” occurs at repentance and Spirit baptism is “subsequent to and distinct from” the new birth. See Thomas Fudge’s Christianity Without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecostalism for a full discussion of these competing doctrines of salvation.]


Oneness, or Apostolic, Pentecostalism grew from factional controversy and restorationist zeal during the final years of the classical Pentecostal revivals into a "third force" in present American Pentecostalism. Current estimates mark Oneness Pentecostal growth at over three- quarters of a million, roughly one-fifth of the entire Pentecostal movement. These Pentecostals, with their unique doctrine of God's person and name, their continued emphasis on "holiness" codes of behavior and associations, and their theological and cooperative isolation, retain many of the qualities of classical Pentecostalism has lost in the more established Pentecostal denominations.

Oneness Pentecostalism, in both its contemporary and historic forms, represents a highly successful, albeit radical expression of American Pentecostalism which recaptures the intensity and millennarian zeal of the earliest Pentecostal revivals and transforms this enthusiasm into a fully developed ritual worship and belief system centered in the unique understanding and experience of the "oneness" of God in the person of Christ. This dissertation will investigate the life and development of Oneness Pentecostalism as a religious and social movement in both its historical and present forms by focusing on the internal dynamics of the movement. This work will examine the movement's institutional development from an early period of undifferentiated growth into a period of mature, diversified ministries and its religious "life expression" with the act of Pentecostal worship serving as the key to the religious "worldview" of contemporary Oneness believers.

Oneness Pentecostalism arose from the "New Issue" controversy in the Assemblies of God with a “rediscovery” of the centrality of the name and person of Jesus Christ in the life and practice of the church. But when this early academic debate concerning the baptismal formula led to a revolutionary application of Old Testament monotheism to the person of Jesus, a rigid, exclusive revision of the Pentecostal understanding of Christian salvation emerged. Such exclusiveness threatened the status quo unity of the young Assemblies of God, both doctrinally and numerically, and necessarily bred schism.

The Oneness doctrine of God and the Acts 2:38 "plan of salvation"—formulated by Frank J. Ewart and G. T. Haywood and later defended most prominently by Andrew Urshan—pitted sectarian claims against the non-sectarian liberality of the Assemblies of God. Perhaps more important than any theoretical leadership, the New Issue evangelists—such as Glenn Cook, L. V. Roberts, Howard Goss, and Oliver F. Fauss—captivated the grassroots of the movement with their sincerity and powers of persuasion. The New Issue was, nevertheless, destined for separation rather than success. The idealized anti-creedalism of the Assemblies withstood three years of threat before the New Issue forced the body to redefine itself in more realistic terms and exclude the Oneness adherents.

Emerging from the Assemblies of God, the Oneness Pentecostals embarked on a series of organizational struggles with the two largest white bodies, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ and the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated, merging to form the United Pentecostal Church in 1945. The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World organized most black Apostolics, although much of black Oneness Pentecostalism remains diffusely organized. Smaller bodies, with diverse doctrinal emphases and extremes, also proliferated.

Despite this development, Oneness Pentecostalism stands in theological isolation from the remainder of Pentecostalism and Protestantism. Buttressed by exclusive thinking and theological defensiveness, these Pentecostals remain largely anti-intellectual and anti-educational. This stance, along with entrenched sectarianism and the belief in sure eschatological vindication, has left Oneness Pentecostals to stand alone, without sound theological reflection or dialogue with other Christian groups.

Beyond this historical presentation, Oneness Pentecostal origins must be understood as a repudiation of moves toward institutional and theological stability in classical Pentecostalism. Accordingly, Oneness development should be viewed as a "counter-reformation of the Azusa revival," an attempt to recapture the early revival's vitality, to thwart the theologizing of the Pentecostal experience, to reaffirm the eschatological zeal of the early Pentecostals, and to revive interracial fellowship withinthe movement. In denying any religious experience subsequent to conversion—the standard explanation of Spirit baptism in both "Second Work" and "Finished Work" Pentecostal traditions—Oneness Pentecostals identified Spirit baptism, along with water baptism administered in the name of Jesus, with conversion. This freed the experience of Spirit baptism from Pentecostal theologizing and reaffirmed the immediacy of the experience itself—the most prominent feature of the Azusa revival. In this, and in their commitment to the "revelation" of the divine name "Jesus" as God's token of the great revival immediately prior to the end time, Oneness Pentecostals retrieved the lost fervor and millenarian hopes of the early Pentecostal revivals. In the Oneness mind, the Azusa "Age of the Spirit" was replaced by the Apostolic "Age of the Name."

The terms "Oneness" and "Apostolic Pentecostalism" describe a unique religious expression within American Pentecostalism which emphasizes a "oneness" doctrine of God and an "Acts 2:38 plan of salvation." "Pentecostalism" refers to the religious movement which arose from revivals in the first decade of the twentieth century in which glossolalia, speaking in tongues, came to be regarded as the evidence of the experience of Spirit baptism for the individual and a sure sign of the imminent return of Christ. All "classical Pentecostal" churches have roots in these revivals. The term "classical" differentiates this branch of Pentecostalism from the "neo-Pentecostal" or "Charismatic" movement which emerged in the 1960's with the appearance of the charismatic gifts (listed in I Corinthians 12-14), especially glossolalia, among Protestant and Catholic church members.

The term "oneness" refers, most specifically, to the innovative application of Old Testament monotheism to the person of Jesus and the resultant denial of the traditional notion of the Trinity. Similarly, the term "apostolic" here refers to the rite of water baptism administered in the name of Jesus as practiced by the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles (herein referred to as "Jesus name" [in quotations] baptism as commonly designated within the movement). Both of these terms are used as appellations for those Pentecostals who proclaim a three-step "plan of salvation" as recorded in Acts 2:38 which involves the requirements of repentance, water baptism in "Jesus name," and Spirit baptism evidenced by glossolalia. In a more general sense, "Oneness" applies to all such Pentecostals, while "Apostolic" usually refers to African American believers and practices. (The term "apostolic" [not capitalized] will be used in reference to the practices of the New Testament apostles, whereas "Apostolic" will refer to Oneness Pentecostals.)

Although Oneness Pentecostalism has been discussed in previous works, most of these are descriptive rather than analytical and have yielded rather limited results. The major general studies of Pentecostalism—represented best by Robert Anderson's Vision of the Disinherited, Walter Hollenweger's The Pentecostals, John Nichol's Pentecostalism, and Vinson Synan's The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States—all survey the rise of Oneness organizations in outline form, but contribute little beyond this. Several denominational histories, including Arthur Clanton's United We Stand, Fred Foster's Their Story: Twentieth Century Pentecostals, and Morris Golder's History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, offer a more detailed, although biased, presentation of Oneness growth and thought. But these works fail to exhaust available primary materials and often demonstrate a lack of objectivity. The same might be said of the histories of the Assemblies of God—Carl Brumback's Suddenly From Heaven, Klaude Kendrick's The Promise Fulfilled, and William Menzies' Anointed To Serve—each of which offers a chapter on the New Issue controversy. Only James Richardson's thesis "Historical and Doctrinal Development of the Black Pentecostal-Apostolic Churches, 1900 to the Present" (Howard University, 1974) adequately analyzes the emergence and diffusion of black Apostolicism. No work has fully investigated the internal dynamics of the growth and thought of the movement as a whole.

Two dissertations have surveyed the theology of Oneness Pentecostalism. James David Kider's "Theology of the 'Jesus Only' Movement" (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1956), a work limited to secondary sources and lacking in necessary historical perspective, fails to understand and adequately present the Oneness mindset. A superior work by David Arthur Reed, "Origins and Developments of the Theology of Oneness Pentecostalism in the United States" (Boston University, 1978) examines Oneness thought against the background of European and American pietism—especially the "Jesus-centrism," or Christ-centered literature and worship, of nineteenth-century American revivalism. This work offers a systematic presentation of Oneness thought based on what Reed identifies as a "Jewish Christian theology of the Name." Presently, Reed's work stands as the single most important contribution to the study of Oneness Pentecostal theology. Nevertheless, a thorough historical and sociological evaluation of the movement has yet to appear.

Much of this study will necessarily deal with Pentecostalism in general, or perhaps better, Oneness Pentecostalism as an expression of the larger Pentecostal phenomenon. This is necessitated by the shared social composition and growth patterns of Oneness and other classical Pentecostal groups, the static quality of Oneness doctrine and practice which embraces more of the early Pentecostal ethos than the better established "mainline" Pentecostal groups, and the self-perception of Oneness believers who see themselves as the true heirs of the Azusa millennarian fervor, immediacy of Spirit baptism, and interracial union. The uniqueness of Oneness Pentecostalism must be investigated only after surveying its place in the larger Pentecostal community.

While no social phenomenon is self-explanatory, explanations for the growth and survival of a social movement—in this case, Oneness Pentecostalism—must be sought in the structure and dynamics of the movement itself as well as in external conditions leading to the movement's existence. More traditional approaches explain the appearance of the Pentecostal phenomenon in terms of economic deprivation, social disorganization, and even psychological maladjustment. Although these may have "facilitated" or "enabled" the emergence of Pentecostalism, such external factors are inadequate analytical tools if used without reference to the internal structure and processes of the movement. This study will embark upon such an internal analysis by employing the tools of social history and the methodology of "phenomenological" sociology. Gleaning from Peter Berger's notions of religion as "world construction" and "world maintenance" and Arthur Paris’ study of the religious "worldview" of black Pentecostals as well as more traditional primary source materials, this work will investigate not only the movement's institutions and leaders, but also its mind and values.

This dissertation will be developed in three sections. Section one will survey the rise of Oneness Pentecostal organizations and thought during the waning years of the classical Pentecostal revivals. Section two will trace Oneness institutional development through a period of undifferentiated growth in its earliest organizational efforts and revivalism to a period of more specialized and diverse ministries in the movement's maturity. Section three will discuss the unique ethos of Oneness life and practice as observed in contemporary worship forms.

Section one offers a historical overview of the emergence and maturing of Oneness thought from 1913 to 1916 which reveals a strong, self-conscious link between the extremes of the Oneness believers and the faded intensity of the Azusa revival of a decade past. Recapturing this early millennarian zeal in the restored "revelation" of the person and name of Jesus, the Oneness Pentecostals created a primitive alternative to the increasingly complex and stable Trinitarian Pentecostal bodies. Forced by their own exclusive claims and the diminishing tolerance of the Assemblies of God, the Oneness Pentecostals separated themselves from the mainstream of Pentecostalism and, in this isolation, developed and preserved the extremes of their early practices. The Oneness thought—always expressed in apologetic or polemic tones—which crystallized with the Oneness founders (Haywood, Ewart, and Urshan) continues to guide the contemporary movement.

Section two will employ the "undifferentiated growth"/"analytical proliferation" model of Pentecostal development—first applied in William Menzies' Anointed To Serve: The Story of the Assemblies of God—to investigate the dynamics of changing policies and structures in the history of the Oneness movement. The early years of Oneness expansion were lived in institutional isolation apart from the struggles of the mainline American churches. In this time of revival efforts, Oneness Pentecostalism grew in a rather undifferentiated pattern, showing only a limited ministry strategy or organization. But with the emergence and development of the major Oneness, or Apostolic, organizations, the movement witnessed the appearance of a clear-cut missions strategy, the specialization of organizational and administrative structures, the appearance of diversified service agencies, and the blooming of educational concerns. The formation of the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated in 1932 and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ in 1931 (and their later merger into the United Pentecostal Church in 1945) and the return of most black Apostolics to the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1937 marked the beginning of this maturation process as the Oneness bodies sought to harness the energies of the movement in concerted efforts to meet the changing needs of their constituencies.

Section three discusses the contemporary Oneness Pentecostal movement as a social phenomenon by investigating the role of the Oneness "worldview" and worship forms in giving meaningful order to the life experiences of Oneness believers and, in turn, legitimating the larger Oneness social experience and order as the "correct" way of living in the world. The ethos of Oneness Pentecostal life and practice will be examined in four areas: the centrality of the divine "epiphany" in ritual worship, the theoretical framework which rises from the act of worship and in turn reshapes the content and interpretation of this act, the role of the Oneness community (congregation) as an inclusive, independent social world, and the crisis of the Oneness community in the larger context of American society.
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Hot, Cold, and Lukewarm

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write . . . “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16 NRSV)

The divine assessment of the works of the Laodicean Christians is a perfect example of the need to read the Scriptures again “for the first time.”

Sermon after sermon has tied the temperatures mentioned here to levels of Christian commitment. The logic is simple and consistent: God’s greatest desire is that Christians are hot – fiery, ablaze — in their commitment. If they are not hot, he had rather them be cold — without commitment and at least honest about. The worst spiritual condition is to be lukewarm — a partial, “sometimes,” incomplete, inconsistent commitment — that is neither hot with commitment or cold without commitment.

The only problem here is that this is not what the text says. Equating “hot” with good and “cold” with bad (but at least honest) is not at all point of the passage.

The angelic messenger condemns the works of the Laodicean church — the way they act, the way they practically live out their faith in the world. If read literally, either hot or cold works are desirable to God. Only lukewarm works are condemned.

This leads to a very different interpretation of the passage. The angel’s message offers a metaphor of usefulness. Hot water is useful — it cleanses, disinfects, soothes, heals, and drives out impurities. Cold water is useful — it quenches thirst, refreshes, and restores to strength. But lukewarm water is not useful — at least not when compared with the usefulness of hot or cold water.

The angelic pronouncement concerning the Laodicean works is a call to usefulness — let your works cleanse, purify, refresh, and restore and do not be satisfied with lukewarm works which make no useful difference in the world around you.

Randy Richards and Brandon O’Brien, in their Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, tell of visiting the ruins of ancient Laodicea. Across the Lycus River, just to the north, lies the twin city of Hieropolis, famous for its hot springs that even today attract thousands of visitors. Just to the east, up the river a bit, lies the ancient city of Colossae, known for its natural springs of cold refreshing water. Laodicea stood between these two water sources — one hot and one cold — but having no water source of its own. All water came to Laodicea via aqueduct and with its flow lost its temperature. Surrounded by hot water on one side and cold on the other, the water in Laodicea ran lukewarm.

Alluding to the water supply to the city, the messenger called the Laodicean Christians to useful works — either hot or cold — and away from useless, tepid, lukewarm works.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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At various times the biblical writers interacted directly with their ancient culture. This was true, for instance, when Paul quoted from the “Hymn to Zeus” (Ac. 17:28) “But you [Zeus] are not dead: you live and abide forever, for in you we live and move and have our being.” In the same passage, Paul also quoted a half-line from the Cretan poet Aratus, which says, “Let us begin with Zeus…for we are also his offspring.” It should be apparent, of course, that Paul does not do this because he is a worshipper of Zeus, but rather, because he wanted a point of contact with his audience, and because, however off the mark he believed Greco-Roman religion to be, it was not always wrong on every point. To paraphrase Cervantes, “All truth is God’s truth.”

This contact with the surrounding culture is perhaps even more thorough-going in the use of mythology in apocalyptic imagery. There were certain stock images in antiquity with which everyone was familiar. Using such imagery immediately employed a known concept which would have been instinctively understood by the earliest listeners. A good example is the imagery of the seven-headed dragon in the Book of Revelation, the creature with a wounded head (Rv. 13:1ff.). This imagery of Yahweh in conflict with a dragon-like creature appears in various places in the Old Testament (e.g., Job 9:13; 26:12-13; Ps. 74:13-14; 89:10; Is. 27:1), and it seems to have been a stock image, for it is found in the literature of Sumer, Babylon, Phoenicia, Canaan and Egypt. Indeed, a visual depiction of the seven-headed monster appears as early as 2600 BC from Sumer incised in a small piece of shell. In this small carving, as in the Book of Revelation, it is fascinating to observe that one of the seven heads of the beast is wounded. One finds this same imagery in ancient literature:

“Because you smote Leviathan, the twisting serpent, (and) made an end of the crooked serpent, the tyrant with seven heads, the skies will become hot (and) will shine.”

                                    Keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit 1.5.I.1

“Surely I lifted up the dragon…[and] smote the crooked serpent, the tyrant with the seven heads.”

                                    Keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit 1.3.III.40-42

In Mesopotamian literature, the defeat of this Leviathan is credited to Anat or Baal in the ancient past. In the Bible, of course, it is credited to Yahweh, not only in the past, but also in “that day”, which is to say, “the day of the LORD”. In the Bible, Leviathan, the threatening monster, seems to be an alternative way of describing Satan himself, the great opposer of God and the prosecutor of God’s people.

Familiarity with the use of such stock images enhances ones understanding and appreciation of the biblical writers and their messages. I suppose some might find it surprising that the Bible contains such references, but this should come as no great surprise. The biblical writers were interested in clear communication, and often, this meant moving from the known to the unknown using elements that already were part of the cultural “working vocabulary” of their audience.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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The Endtime Ingathering of the Gentiles

The inclusion of the Gentiles into the "people of God" at the end of time was not an afterthought or a response to Jewish particularism. Rather the ingathering of the nations had always been a common theme in the Hebrew prophetic understanding of God's future.

Even the election of  Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3) included the Gentile nations. God promised

To bless Abraham.
To make him a great nation.
To make his name great.
To give him innumerable descendants (like the sands of the sea).
To bless those that blessed Abraham and to curse those that cursed him.
To bless all nations through Abraham and his offspring.

Abraham and, in turn, his descendants Israel were the elect of God, chosen to receive the oracles of God and then to become a priesthood to all nations. The one true God was not the God of Israel alone, but the God of all. Israel was selected for a specific purpose: to act as God's agent in the world, bringing his law and glory to all nations.

This was also the message of Jesus and Paul. They both looked for the impending restoration of Israel and the ingathering of the nations. It was not accidental that Jesus stated emphatically that the end could not come until the gospel had been proclaimed in all nations. It is not accidental that Jesus' final and great commission was to "make disciples" in all of the world. It is not accidental that Peter appealed to the Hebrew prophet Joel in his Pentecostal sermon to explain that the great endtime outpouring of the Spirit on all peoples had already begun.

The inclusion of the Gentiles in the "people of God" is a Bible-wide message. Neither Jesus nor Paul were innovators here. Rather they shared the confidence of the Hebrew prophets that God's "age to come" would include the Gentiles. With the Hebrew prophets, they looked for the near--perhaps even present--(1) unveiling of God's identity and glory to all peoples, (2) eschatological pilgrimage of the nations to the mountain of God, (3) great messianic feast of table fellowship, and (4) bearing of gifts to Zion by the endtime Gentile pilgrims.


Listen to the expectations of the Hebrew prophets and hear them echo in Jesus' preaching of the kingdom of God and Paul's mission to the Gentile nations.

Unveiling of God's Identity and Glory to All Peoples

Joel 2: 28-29
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

Isaiah 45:20-23
 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save. Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.

Isaiah 49:3 and 6
‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’ . . . It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.

Zechariah 2:10-11
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.

Eschatological Pilgrimage of the Nations to the Mountain of God

Isaiah 2:2-4 (Micah 4:1-3)
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isaiah 55:5
Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.

Isaiah 56:6-7
Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Jeremiah 3:17
At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.

Zechariah 8:20-23
Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities;  The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts. I myself will go also.” Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.’ “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.

Great Messianic Feast of Table Fellowship

Isaiah 25:6-8
And in this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees.  And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people. He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.

Zechariah 14:6
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 

Matthew 8:11-12
And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Revelation 19:7-9
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” 

Bearing of Gifts by Gentile Pilgrims to Zion

Isaiah 60:11 (See entire chapter about gifts from Gentiles)
Therefore your gates [Jerusalem] shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession.

Isaiah 66:18-21
For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. . . And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the Lord.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” . . . And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Romans 15:25-27
But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

I Corinthians 16:1-4
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

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The Audience of Paul's Letters

Pronouncing a definitive answer to the question of the audience of Paul's letters is difficult. At times, Paul seems to explicitly address Jewish Christians and, at other times, Gentile Christians. Many--if not all-- of Paul's churches were "mixed" congregations of both ethnic Jews and Gentiles (see especially Romans 16). This reality is the obvious by-product of Paul's "Jew-first" missionary principle in which the expansion of Christian followed the Jewish diaspora from urban center to urban center throughout the Roman empire.

Pauline Christians first met in diaspora "synagogues" - which were no more than houses where worshipers gathered. (There is no archaeological evidence for free-standing synagogue buildings or churches in Roman cities until long after Paul's time.) There is no reason to believe that the Christian "house" churches described in Paul's letters and the book of Acts patterned themselves around any other model than the Jewish synagogue.

Despite the fact that Paul's "churches" were populated by both ethnic Jews and Gentiles, his letters are always--first and foremost--informed by his mission as an "apostle to the Gentiles." Paul understood himself--and his prophetic call--as the harbinger of the great endtime ingathering of the Gentiles into the "people of God" that the Hebrew prophets had predicted.

Given this clear--and often stated--self-understanding, let me offer three simple rules for discerning Paul's audience in his letters:

(1) Unless otherwise noted, Paul writes to a Gentile audience.

(2) When Paul writes about "Jews," these references are most likely to Christ-believing Jews--including the Jerusalem church and other ethnic Jews--that were full participants in the various missions churches rather than to all Jews in general.

(3) Whenever Paul addresses his Jewish kinsmen (sometimes all ethnic Jews, more often Christ-believing Jews as determined by context), these statements are always the exception--and never the rule--to Paul's normal Gentile audience and these statements are always clearly delineated by direct statements or clear clues in the text itself.


Look at this example:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4)

These words make absolutely no sense if Paul's audience was a Jewish community in which the males had already submitted to circumcision. These words are only meaningful if directed to the Gentile males who were considering Jewish proselyte conversion.

In Galatians 5, Paul is not denying the Jewish obligation of circumcision. Rather he is arguing against the imposition of Jewish circumcision on Christ-believing Gentiles. He is making no statement about the covenant obligations of Jews, rather he is affirming his mission to include Gentiles "as Gentiles"--without Jewish proselyte conversion--in the ingathering of the nations to God. Audience is everything when interpreting this passage.

When visiting Jerusalem on two separate occasions, Paul did not compel the Gentile Titus to be circumcised, but he did compel (and seems to have performed the act himself) the Jewish Timothy to be circumcised. Is Paul inconsistent? In no way. Circumcision was a covenant obligation for Jews that Paul continue to recognize as valid and God-directed, but was never an obligation for Gentiles. Given this, it is clear that passages like Galatians 5 are addressed to Gentile Christ-believers and should be interpreted accordingly.

Whatever Paul says about the Jewish Torah and its obligations--especially the cultural identity markers of circumcision, Sabbath observance, and food regulations (kashrut)--it is significant to note that he (unless otherwise stated) is speaking to a Gentile audience upon whom falls no Torah obligations.

The question in Paul about Jews and Gentiles together in "one body" is the question of whether the endtime ingathering of the Gentiles requires Jewish proselyte conversion (washing, circumcision, Torah observance). Paul answers an emphatic "NO!" to this question. For Paul, "Gentiles as Gentiles" are included in God's "age to come" without Torah observance that never applied to Gentiles in the first place.

Paul's "apparent" repudiation of the Mosaic law--in Galatians 5 and similar passages--means one thing if directed toward Torah-observant Jews like himself, but it means an entirely different thing if addressed to Gentile converts who as part of God's final, endtime action in Christ are now included into the "people of God"--without taking on the specific obligations of Torah observance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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Oneness Pentecostal Growth & Development - Part 4

The remainder of this dissertation will, therefore, further investigate Pentecostal uniqueness and growth—particularly that of Oneness Pentecostalism—by examining two aspects of the movement's internal dynamics. First, the growth of the Oneness movement will be traced by its institutional development through a period of undifferentiated expansion during the early revivalism and the earliest organizational efforts to a period of more diversified ministries in the movement's maturity. Second, gleaning from Peter Berger's notions of religion as "world construction" and "world maintenance" and Arthur Paris' study of the religious "worldview" of black Pentecostals, the unique ethos of Oneness Pentecostal life and practice will be discussed—that is, the centrality of the divine "epiphany" in ritual worship, the theoretical framework which rises from the act of worship and in turn reshapes the content and interpretation of this act, the role of the Oneness community (congregation) as an inclusive, independent social world, and the crisis of the Oneness community in the larger context of American society.21

The "undifferentiated growth"/"analytical proliferation" model of Pentecostal development—first applied in William Menzies' Anointed To Serve: The Story of the Assemblies of God—encapsulates the dynamics of changing policies and structures in the history of the Oneness movement.22 The early years of Oneness expansion were lived in institutional isolation apart from the struggles of the mainline American churches. In this time of revival efforts, Oneness Pentecostalism grew in a rather undifferentiated pattern, showing only a limited ministry strategy or organization. But with the emergence and development of the major Oneness, or Apostolic, organizations, the movement witnessed the formation of a clear-cut missions strategy, the specialization of organizational and administrative structures, the appearance of diversified service agencies, and the blooming of educational concerns. The appearance of the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated in 1932 and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ in 1931 (and their later merger into the United Pentecostal Church in 1945) and the return of most black Apostolics to the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1937 marked the beginning of this maturation process as the Oneness bodies sought to harness the energies of the movement in concerted efforts to meet the changing needs of their constituencies.

Before dealing directly with this institutional maturation process (in the next three chapters), the dynamics of this growth should be examined. Luther Gerlach and Virginia Hine of the University of Minnesota have observed five factors crucial in the growth and spread of American Pentecostalism. While these factors are not presented as the "necessary conditions" for the rise and advance of the movement, they are "operationally significant" and provide a sound, meaningful basis for describing the movement's growth dynamics. Although formulated from Gerlach and Hine's studies of Pentecostalism—both classical and neo-Pentecostal—in the 1960's, the five factors well describe the rapid growth of early classical, Oneness, and neo-Pentecostalism and the decline in these growth patterns as these groups became more institutionally and administratively complex. These five factors are

1. A segmented, usually polycephalous, cellular organization composed of units reticulated by various personal, structural, and ideological ties.

2. Face-to-face recruitment by committed individuals using their own pre-existing, significant social relationships.

3. Personal commitment generated by an act or an experience which separates a convert in some significant way from the established order (or his previous place in it), identifies him with a new set of values, and commits him to changed patterns of behavior.

4. An ideology which codifies values and goals, provides a conceptual framework by which all experiences or events relative to these goals may be interpreted, motivates and provides rationale for envisioned changes, defines the opposition, and forms the basis for conceptual unification of a segmented network of groups.

5. Real or perceived opposition from the society at large or from that segment of the established order within which the movement has risen.23

The essentially "headless" quality of Pentecostal organization is often obscured by the fact that most Pentecostals belong to established denominations practicing one of the traditional organizational polities. But the notion of individual access to the spiritual source of authority, when seriously considered, prevents true organizational solidarity and centralized control. The factional, schismatic tendencies of Pentecostals are especially apparent in the growth of new congregations and organizations through fission. The rise of a gifted leader more often results in a break from his parent church to establish an independent congregation than in the elevation of this new leader within the existing structure. The proliferation of congregations through fission, although decried by Pentecostal leaders, continues as the growing edge of the movement.24

But Pentecostal organization is not only "headless," it is also "segmented," that is, it demonstrates strong patterns of personal interrelationships and group linkages. Personal association, leadership exchanges, and networks of travelling evangelists create this "infrastructure" of the movement. Each individual Pentecostal has a personal network of fellow Pentecostals linked together in varying degrees of closeness. Likewise, many Pentecostals "crossover" to worship in churches other than their own. This creates fluctuating rather than static memberships in local Pentecostal groups. The association and friendship of ministers who frequently visit each other's churches also promotes this blending of congregations. Networks of traveling evangelists also unite mixed congregations in periodic revival meetings. Beyond these, several internal dynamics contribute to strengthen of the social networking within the Pentecostal movement. A "grapevine" communication system collects and distributes information of importance throughout the movement. The provision of prayer and financial support to individuals and congregations serves to link organizationally distinct groups. Most importantly, the shared ideological commitment to the experience of Spirit baptism and the authority of a non-human leader insures interaction within the diverse ranks. Joined by these central beliefs, Pentecostals quickly unite when faced with real or perceived opposition.25

Face-to-face recruitment along lines of pre- existing social relationships also facilitates the spread of Pentecostalism. Gerlach and Hine's studies reveal that fifty-two percent of Pentecostal converts were recruited by family members and twenty-nine percent by close friends. Other significant recruiting relationships include those between neighbors, business associates, fellow students, employer-employee, and teacher-student.26 The growth potential of any given congregation matches the number of available recruits among friends, relatives, and associates of the original core. This is especially evident when socio-economic distinctions are superimposed upon the differences in recruiting relationships. For those at the lower end of the economic scale, kinship ties are most significant in recruiting; whereas many non-kin associations are significant among those at the upper end. While experiences of economic deprivation and social dislocation might predispose people to embrace Pentecostalism, the committed witness of a "significant other" almost always leads to these conversions.27

A third crucial factor in the dynamics of Pentecostal growth is the act, or experience, of commitment. Such commitments result in cognitive restructuring, feelings of certitude, and effortless behavioral changes as the new movement and its value system are embraced.

Charisma, that quality traditionally ascribed by sociologists and anthropologists only to magnetic leaders of emergent movements, flows freely through the ranks of Pentecostalism. The fact [is] that less extraordinary individuals can be led through a social process into an experience of commitment, with all its personal and social ramifications, and can influence others in turn.28

Pentecostal commitments involve not only a highly motivating religious experience, but also an objectively observable act of "bridge-burning." This act which sets the believer apart from old behavior patterns and associations and identifies him within the new community of beliefs and behavior symbolizes effective participation in the movement. In Pentecostalism in general, glossolalia functions as this "bridge-burning" commitment experience. For Oneness Pentecostals this commitment extends to the act of baptism (or quite often rebaptism) in the name of Jesus.

The shared Pentecostal ideology, the fourth factor in Pentecostal growth, not only links the movement with a common value system, but also functions as a pattern for personal and social change. Gerlach and Hine find in the Pentecostal ideology a dogmatic quality, a call for serious involvement, and a "positive fatalism" of divine guidance. The dogmatism of the Pentecostal ideology, with its accompanying in-group/out-group understanding of opposition, offers a clear, simple focus for action and behavior. Dean Kelly, in his influential Why Conservative Churches Are Growing, argues that the growth of conservative, including Pentecostal, churches has outpaced that of more liberal churches due to the clear sense of life purpose offered in the conservative groups.30 Pentecostals reject the philosophical acceptance of the gap between social ideals and real behavioral norms which underlies the stability of the status quo. Rather these "true believers" accentuate the enabling power of the baptism of the Spirit which allows the realization of the otherwise impossible demands of the Christian ethic. The individual Pentecostal approaches his ideology with seriousness and spends many hours in study of its tenets and applications. This involvement, in turn, functions as a "mechanism for renewal of commitment" and increased involvement within the larger community. Above all, the Pentecostal ideology motivates believers to action, insuring them of divine guidance and ultimate triumph. Such "fatalism," rather than creating a passive retreat from hardships, encourages struggle and work to overcome obstacles. Even difficulties become perceived, not as failures, but as redirection given by God or times of temporary testing of devotion. Hence, the ability of the movement to persevere is almost limitless.31

The importance of real or perceived opposition from society at large is the final factor in Gerlach and Hine's evaluation of Pentecostal growth. Pentecostals possess a "psychology of persecution" often rising from real experiences of ridicule or rejection by mainline denominations in the case of both classical and neo-Pentecostalism. At other times, when no real external opposition is present, Pentecostals, nonetheless, spend much time and effort describing the outside threat and their need to isolate from it. (The Oneness Pentecostal rejection of the neo-Pentecostal movement exhibits notions of perceived rather than real opposition.) The fact remains, intense opposition, if less than total suppression, tends to unify local congregations provides a basis for identification between groups. Opposition builds and reinforces the links in the segmented network of the movement.32

While Gerlach and Hine's studies concern the whole of the Pentecostal movement, their conclusions are quite pertinent in the study of Oneness institutional development from undifferentiated growth to mature diversified ministries. These dynamic factors fuel the self- conscious Oneness effort to recapture the pristine fervor and immediacy of the Azusa revival and demonstrate the patterns of attendant Oneness growth. The shift toward administrative efficiency and multiplied service agencies, depicted in the following three chapters, reveals two seemingly contradictory levels of Oneness Pentecostal growth: the vertical growth of an increasingly complex centralized organization and the horizontal growth of factional, diffuse congregations linked most strongly by networks of personal associations and external opposition.

9Ibid., p. 235.

10Ibid., p. 185. Anderson bases this conclusion on the overall racial makeup of Oneness Pentecostalism with its higher percentage of "impoverished and socially ostracized" blacks. This fails to note the early racial separation (1924 in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World) which divided Oneness believers along the "color line." White Oneness believers shared approximately the same economic and social standing as other white Pentecostals. More intense deprivation cannot explain the continued emphasis upon ecstasy in this group.

16Arthur E. Paris, Black Pentecostalism: Southern Religion in an Urban World (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982), p. 83.

17Virginia H. Hine, "Non-Pathological Pentecostal Glossolalia: A Summary of Relevant Psychological Literature," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 8 (1969). Anderson discredits this study for rather oblique reasons, see Vision, p. 286.

21Part III of this dissertation will address the issue of the Oneness Pentecostal worldview and religious framework.

22See William W. Menzies, Anointed to Serve: The Story of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1971).

23Gerlach and Hine, People, p. xvii.

24Gerlach and Hine, "Five Factors," pp. 26-30.

25Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 33-78.

26Gerlach and Hine, "Five Factors," p. 30.

27Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 79-97.

28Gerlach and Hine, "Five Factors," p. 32.

29See Virginia H. Hine, "Pentecostal Glossolalia: Toward a Functional Interpretation," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 8 (1968).

30Note the central thesis of Dean M. Kelley's Why Conservative Churches Are Growing (New York: Harper and Row, 1972).

31Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 159-182 and "Five Factors," pp. 33-37.

32Gerlach and Hine, People, pp. 183-97 and "Five Factors," pp. 36-37.
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Oneness Pentecostal Growth & Development - Part 3

In his weighty and persuasive examination of the dynamics of Pentecostal origins and growth, Anderson at times equivocates between religious and social factors, but always returns to his emphasis on deprivation and dislocation theories wed to Samarin's notion of glossolalia as regressive speech. In this, he is plagued by a reductionism common to functionalist sociological studies: the assumption that the function of a religious belief or practice is sufficient to explain the phenomenon and adequately assess its meaning. Arthur Paris, in his study of black Pentecostalism, shows that an error of circular reasoning often hides beneath such functionalist interpretations: the sociologist posits a set of needs in the adherents of a position and then defines the religious group as that which fulfills these posited needs. The intellectual component of religion is, therefore, largely ignored and the possibility of substantive religious experience is ultimately categorized as illusory rather than real.16 Only in his concessions to religious factors, specifically the unique "religious orientation" and history of the early Pentecostals and the biblical foundation of their ecstatic millenarianism, does Anderson approach a fully-orbed presentation of Pentecostal origins and take seriously the theoretical framework or worldview within which the early Pentecostals perceived and acted.

But even in these concessions, Anderson's argument appears weak. When positing that a "religious orientation" toward an emotional "religion of the Spirit" distinguished the early Pentecostals from the mass of the working poor, Anderson seems to avoid the obvious probability that all in this marginal conglomerate of dispossessed white farmers, blacks, and eastern European immigrants shared this same "religious orientation." This distinction stands unsubstantiated and possibly unwarranted. A similar breakdown occurs in Anderson's second concession: those experiencing some traumatic personal crisis were the most susceptible for Pentecostal recruitment. It is difficult to believe that "personal crisis" did not extend to all the disinherited rather than just the group converting to Pentecostalism. Anderson also ignores the studies of Virginia Hine which show that less than twenty percent of Pentecostal converts she examined experienced any personal crisis leading to their conversions.17

 Beyond this failure to explain the uniqueness of the Pentecostal converts among the marginal working class, Anderson's social analysis falters at several other points. His evaluation of the Gilded and Progressive eras of American history seems to rest almost entirely on Richard Hoftstader's notion of the "psychic crisis of the 1890's" and influential books, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. This reliance is especially clear in his examination of evangelical Christianity's "revolt against modernity." A notable lack of later and differing scholarship in Anderson's notes and bibliography undermines the quality of this work. Anderson also consistently links the history of Pentecostalism and Fundamentalism. He sees Pentecostalism as merely an emotional extreme within the larger Fundamentalist context. Thus, the Pentecostal rejection of the status quo is identified with the Fundamentalist rejection of the accommodation of the church to modern culture, especially biblical criticism, Darwinism, and the Social Gospel. He makes this identification in spite of repeated Fundamentalist repudiation of Pentecostalism and his own admission of the differing class constituencies of the movements.18 Neither does he distinguish revivalist evangelicalism from doctrinaire Fundamentalism. Although as conservative Christians, classical Pentecostals certainly affirm the "Fundamentals," their evangelical emphasis on "crisis experience" conversion—in the case of some Pentecostals as many as three "crisis experiences" in the normal Christian life—overrides any assertion of propositional doctrine as the central Christian reality.

Furthermore, Anderson's categorical leap from economic to "respect and prestige" deprivation in explaining neo-Pentecostal ecstasy leaves his scientific methodology lost somewhere in the shuffle. If anything, the inarticulate "emptiness" experienced by classical and neo-Pentecostals alike demonstrates that the spiritual crisis of modernity knows no class barriers. Moreover, the studies of Luther Gerlach and Virginia Hine have shown that the Pentecostal movement—at least in its present appeal— does not attract only certain socio-economic groups, but rather draws from all ages, all educational backgrounds, all income brackets, and all occupational groups.19 Such observations signal the need to move beyond deprivation and dislocation theories of Pentecostal origins, with their implicit evaluations of maladjustment, to a broader, more complex assessment of the attraction of Pentecostalism which can explain both the appeal to the working poor of classical Pentecostalism and the appeal to the middle and upper class Protestants and Catholics of neo-Pentecostalism. Also, Anderson's use of Troeltsch's "church/sect" model, while adequately explaining the institutionalization and middle class growth of Pentecostalism, is somewhat weakened by the explosion of American religious pluralism in the 1960's. This plethora of diversity wipes away the clear distinction between church and sect.

Despite these weaknesses, Anderson's work remains the springboard for future studies of Pentecostal origins and developments. His work shows that Pentecostalism arose as a mass social movement and as such should be studied with the best sociological technique. Anderson forever links the successes and pitfalls of early Pentecostalism with other contemporary poor people's movements. Beyond this, the recounting of the story of classical Pentecostalism's move from disinherited poverty in industrializing America through the depression years and into middle class respectability following World War II places this often ignored "fringe" group squarely in the middle of the not-so-unique experience of American class development. Anderson's strengths, and failures, demonstrate the need for a cautious blending of detailed sociological analysis and serious consideration of religious ideology and experience. Most significantly, Vision of the Disinherited frees scholars to focus on the uniqueness of Pentecostalism without ever losing footing in the greater American social experience.

While no social phenomenon is self-explanatory, explanations for the growth and survival of a social movement must be sought in the structure and dynamics of the movement itself as well as in external conditions leading to the movement's existence. Although such factors as deprivation, disorganization, and even psychological maladjustment may have "facilitated" or "enabled" the emergence of Pentecostalism, these factors are inadequate analytical tools if used without reference to the internal structure and processes of the movement.20

18Anderson, Vision, p. 230.

19Luther Gerlach and Virginia H. Hine, People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation (Indiana polis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), pp. 2-3.

20Luther Gerlach and Virginia H. Hine, "Five Factors Crucial to the Growth and Spread of a Modern Religious Movement," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 7 (1968): 38.