Friday, October 9, 2015

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Belief System of Oneness Pentecostalism 5

The "Name" and the certain vindication of the future.

A final arena of distinctive Oneness thought concerns the "Name" and the vindication of the future. The revelation of the divine name "Jesus" as an end time event means, for Oneness believer, nothing less than the dawning of the kingdom of God in the present age. This divine action has garnered as its corollary a heightened Satanic darkness among the evil men and institutions of these latter days. This struggle of God and Satan will climax, according to Oneness projections, with the withdrawal of the restraints on evil embodied in the church of the "Name" in the "rapture" and the onrush of a worldwide catastrophic judgment on evil in the "tribulation period." But prior to the climactic events, God will restore the church to its true apostolic power, producing a revival of worldwide proportions. The Oneness Pentecostal sees himself as a "servant of the final age of revival," a tool in the end time restoration of the church.10

This eschatological intensity and the claim of an end time revelation of the saving name of God ostracized the Oneness believers from the growing institutional stability of the Assemblies of God. Their forced withdrawal from this body in 1916 led to a strong persecution complex and the modification of their eschatological expectations. Rather than as a force for renewing the existing churches, Oneness believers came to see themselves as opposed to and a divine witness against unfaithful Christendom. Opposition to the Oneness theology of the "Name" by Trinitarian Pentecostals amounted to a full rejection of Christ himself. "Come-outism" gripped Oneness leaders as they came to make exclusive claims on knowledge of God's person and Christian salvation. Emphasis shifted from the saving message of the name of Jesus as that "name whereby we must be saved" to the eschatological vindication of the Oneness movement through the selfsame judging name "before which every knee shall bow."

In the Oneness mentality, the future coming of Christ will reverse present injustices. The believer will triumph in his daily struggle with the powers of darkness and will enjoy full fellowship with God. Human institutionspolitical and economicwith their powers to oppress the Christian believer will be laid powerless before the judgment of a sovereign God. But most significantly, the religious status quo will be uncovered as false Christianity and the Oneness believers will be elevated to their rightful place of prominence. Nominal Christians will either be condemned to hell for their rejection of the Oneness message or relegated to a sub-salvational position due to their ignorance. The eschatological claim of superior revelationwhen reinterpreted in light of hostile rejection of the Oneness movementreversed the role of Pentecostal eschatology from incentive for evangelism to future vindication. In this manner, Oneness Pentecostalism has maintained its eschatological intensity on a prolonged basis despite the upward economic mobility of its adherents.

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10Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, p. 413.

1 comment:

  1. Early on in these current posts, the relationship between worship and theology was, in my view, a breaking of new ground. These sociological and psychological underpinnings of the Oneness Pentecostal movement has received scant attention, not even among the Oneness Pentecostals themselves. Still, as an experience-oriented form of religion, it could hardly be any other way. The sociological and psychological features you have described for Oneness Pentecostals is not unlike the observations of Robert Mapes Anderson in his work The Vision of the Disinherited (Oxford University), which treated the larger field of Pentecostalism. The shift you've noted above in eschatological emphasis from a restoration of existing churches to antagonism toward all other churches has put the Oneness Pentecostals in the unenviable position of essentially claiming they are the only ones going to heaven.

    There has been some lessening of this hardened stanch very recently, however, at least in some quarters. For instance, the Oneness Pentecostal pastor in my own area has for the past few years participated in the National Day of Prayer with various other local pastors, including Baptists, Lutherans, other non-Oneness Pentecostals and evangelicals in general. I doubt that this would have happened two decades or more ago. Perhaps in time, the Oneness Pentecostals will see the short-sightedness of their harangue with the rest of the Christian church.

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