Category Archives: Theology

How Should Christians Respond to Cultural Chaos? Read Myer Pearlman’s 1932 Message About Living in a Transition Period.

MyerPearlman

Myer Pearlman (1898-1943), Assemblies of God theologian


This Week in AG History — July 30, 1932

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 28 July 2016

The year was 1932. The world’s economic and political systems were groaning under the weight of an economic depression. Western culture was shifting as modern education and urbanization challenged traditional notions about family and morality.

Myer Pearlman, a prominent Assemblies of God systematic theologian, writing in a 1932 Pentecostal Evangel article, summed up the cultural moment with this phrase: “we are living in a transition period.”

The Assemblies of God’s view of the end times spoke directly to the cultural chaos of the 1930s. Like many other evangelical groups, the Assemblies of God embraced a premillennial eschatology that predicted a period of rapid social decay, followed by Christ’s return. They believed that much of the American church had abandoned the authority of Scripture. In their view, this would lead to the collapse of families, morality, and the broader culture.

Historians have described premillennialists as pessimistic. One might also describe their views as realistic. Indeed, their views seem to anticipate the current societal shifts and discord.

Pearlman’s 1932 article was titled “At the Dividing Point of Two Ages.” He described the cultural conditions present at the birth of the church two thousand years ago. These cultural conditions, in many ways, strikingly paralleled what was happening in the 1930s.

Pearlman identified the following seven characteristics of the culture during the birth of the church:

1)  It was an age in which popular culture reigned. Superficial forms of religion, art, and philosophy were widely spread among the people.

2)  It was a highly civilized and modern age. International travel and commerce were common, women became prominent in various spheres of life, and there was proliferation of cultural amusements and comforts.

3)  It was an educated age. People were literate, teaching was an honorable profession, and universities and libraries flourished.

4)  It was a cosmopolitan age. The Roman Empire provided a common language and a system of roads that allowed the exchange of goods and ideas.

5)  It was an age of religious universalism. Spiritual and political leaders tried to unite religions and rejected truth claims viewed as divisive.

6)  It was an age that, just before its crisis point, expected a king to emerge who would save and rule the world.

7)  It was an age that witnessed the first earthly coming of Christ.

Christ came into a world, Pearlman noted, that exhibited very similar characteristics to the world that existed in the 1930s. Christ first came to earth during a transition period, and Pearlman expected Christ’s second coming also to be during a transition period. He wrote, “As the Redeemer appeared at the dividing point of the ages of Law and of Grace, so He will appear at the dividing point of the ages of Grace and the Millennium.”

How should today’s church, perched on the edge of the dividing line between the two ages, respond to cultural chaos? Pearlman encouraged believers to rejoice in the hope they have in Christ. Christians should “lift up their heads in joyous expectancy when these things come to pass,” he wrote, “and to watch to keep their lamps lighted and filled with oil, and faithfully to use their talents until he comes.”

The premillennial return of Christ is one of the four cardinal doctrines of the Assemblies of God. The doctrine helps make sense of current events and points believers to the ultimate hope they have in Christ, even as storms swirl around them. The doctrine also underscores the biblical teaching that social conditions will worsen before Christ’s second coming, and that believers should not place their ultimate confidence in earthly kingdoms or leaders. These are important lessons for Christians to remember in the current transition period.

Read Myer Pearlman’s article, “At the Dividing Point of Two Ages,” on pages 8, 9, and 11 of the July 30, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Elijah, an Example,” by Ernest S. Williams

* “The Kingdom of the Son of Man,” by James S. Hutsell

* “Why Put Them Out?” by Mrs. H. F. Foster

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

“Pentecostal Evangel” archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Did Early Pentecostalism Have Roots in German and Scandinavian Pietism?

American Pentecostal historians have often focused on the movement’s origins in various Anglo segments of evangelicalism. Vinson Synan is known for tracing Pentecostal roots to the Wesleyan/Methodist/Holiness movements. Edith Blumhofer offered a helpful corrective by noting that many early Pentecostals, including those in the Assemblies of God, also drew from the Higher Life/Keswick movements.

Many people may be surprised to learn that Pentecostalism also has roots in Pietism, a movement arising within German and Scandinavian Lutheranism. Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers recently sat down with television producer Tim Frakes and shared how many early Pentecostals identified themselves within the broader tradition of Pietism.

Pietism interview.jpg

Part of that interview is accessible here (click below):

Tim Frakes, the former Public Media Director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, recently recorded a television special with Rick Steves on Martin Luther and the Reformation. Frakes is now working on a series about Pietism.

Pietism arose among German Lutherans in the 17th century and quickly spread to Scandinavia. The movement emphasized that the Christian faith should not be merely a matter of the intellect, but also an affair of the heart and lived out in daily life. Pietists emphasized the importance of personal Bible readings and a personal relationship with God.

Rodgers was raised in a Norwegian immigrant community in North Dakota and wrote a history of Pentecostalism in the state, in which he documented Pentecostal origins in Scandinavian pietism in the Dakotas and Minnesota. He documented the emergence of revivals featuring salvation, healing, and biblical spiritual gifts (including speaking in tongues) in the 1890s and early 1900s among Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. The earliest Pentecostal historians, Rodgers noted, identified these Scandinavian revivals as in continuity with the Pentecostal movement.

Dr. John H. Armstrong, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Master (Carol Stream, IL), encouraged readers of his blog to watch the interview with Rodgers. He commented, “It strikes me that honest historical research, which is not built on anti-Pentecostalism, cannot help but draw the conclusions that Dr. Rodgers makes in this helpful video.”

For more information regarding Pietism and its relationship to Pentecostalism, check out the following links:

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Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Nationalism and the Heavenly Kingdom: How Pentecostals Responded to World War I

1918 PE NEWS

A French couple welcome liberating American soldiers in 1918, after four years of German occupation.

This Week in AG History — July 1, 1916

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 1 July 2016

The summer of 1916, one hundred years ago, was bloody. The Great War, later dubbed World War I, had been raging for two years. Nearly every nation in Europe was embroiled in conflict. Political and economic turmoil and famine resulted in the death of millions.

Just a few years earlier, everything had seemed so different. Politicians and mainline church leaders had been confident that scientific, technological, and social advances would make war a thing of the past. These progressives aimed to perfect humanity through education and social change. They equated Christianization with Westernization, replacing the biblical notion of a transformative encounter with God with a “social gospel” that de-emphasized conversion in favor of cultural education.

The outbreak of war shattered these illusions of social progress. Progressives in America were divided on how to cope with this new reality. But for Pentecostals, the war merely confirmed what they already knew. Humanity was deeply stained by sin and only Christ, not culture, could save.

The pages of the Pentecostal Evangel during the war years were filled with warnings against confusing the Christian faith with national identities. The July 1, 1916, issue was no exception. In an article titled, “Light on this Present Crisis,” British pastor Leonard Newby responded to several difficult questions arising from the war.

Newby related a question: “Is it not an awful thing for one Christian nation to be fighting another Christian nation?” Newby disagreed with the assumption that a nation could be Christian. He wrote, “There is not, and never has been, such a company of people as a CHRISTIAN NATION, and never will be until the Lord comes.” Rather, he explained, “The people of God who form the mystical body of Jesus Christ are a small company of people scattered among the nations.”

Newby warned against those who advocated a “social gospel” without need of personal conversion: “They are preaching the Universal Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, instead of the need of regeneration and redemption through the blood of His Cross.”

Newby also responded to the question, “Does not this war show the failure of Christianity?” Newby stated that it did not. According to Scripture, Newby insisted, “Christianity is one thing, civilization is quite another.” He wrote, “What men and women need is not civilization merely (although God knows how much in some quarters that is needed) but they need TO BE BORN AGAIN (St. John 3:3), not to be veneered, but to become the subjects of a mighty spiritual revolution from within.”

Newby’s concern that Christians not confuse their faith with nationalism reflected not only the beliefs of the Assemblies of God at the time, but also those of many other premillennial evangelicals. This view sometimes had the effect of preventing significant cultural engagement by believers. Over time many within the Assemblies of God became leaders in the broader society, leading to further reflection about the proper relationship between Christians and national identity. However, the primary point of Newby and other early Pentecostals remains valid today: earthly allegiances should pale in comparison to the Christian’s heavenly citizenship.

Read the entire article by Leonard Newby, “Light on this Present Crisis,” on pages 6, 7, and 9 of the July 1, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:
* “Further Incidents from the Early Days in Azusa Mission,” by B. F. Lawrence
* “The Baptism of the Holy Ghost,” by H. M. Turney
And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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What Did Early Pentecostals Teach about the Theology of Work?

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D.W.Kerr (back row, center) with a group of Assemblies of God executive presbyters, 1919.


This Week in AG History — June 11, 1921

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 9 June 2016

What did early Pentecostals teach about the theology of work? Some observers have claimed that early Pentecostals were so focused on the spiritual life that they neglected careful reflection about other aspects of daily life. However, early issues of the Pentecostal Evangel tell a different story. In a 1921 article, D. W. Kerr, an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God, wrote an insightful article titled, “A Pentecostal Businessman.”

Kerr explained at length why Pentecostals should be well-equipped to serve in all areas of life, including in business. Kerr wrote that “the Lord will pour His Spirit in such fullness” in order to equip believers “for life and for service in all the varied spheres and the diversified forms of human toil and labour under the sun.” According to Kerr, spirituality should not be divorced from work. Pentecostal spirituality should be so all-encompassing that it makes a positive impact upon the labors of the faithful.

Kerr was an influential theologian and church leader. Five years earlier, Kerr served as the primary drafter of the Assemblies of God’s “Statement of Fundamental Truths.” In this article, Kerr disagreed with the notion that religion should be separate from “social, domestic, or business affairs.”

Drawing heavily from Scripture, Kerr identified character qualities that should describe all Pentecostals: “prompt and punctual, courteous and obliging, tender and affectionate, affable and sober, devoted and self-sacrificing.” A Pentecostal engaged in business, according to Kerr, should also be full of “vision, action, and determination,” and also demonstrate humility and dependence upon God.

Pentecostal businesspeople should exhibit these qualities, Kerr wrote, wherever they go.  He wrote, “whether in the home, or society; or on the busy thoroughfares, and commercial centers; whether at the accountant’s desk, or on the board of exchange; or in the places of barter, buying and selling and getting gain; that in all these places of business activities, a Pentecostal business man can adorn himself and his calling.”

Importantly, Kerr suggested that the Pentecostal businessperson can effectively witness his or her faith by living out these character qualities in the marketplace. A person’s inner spiritual life, he suggested, is revealed by outward actions, habits, and character. Kerr’s admonitions continue to encourage Pentecostals to cultivate biblical values in all spheres of life.

Read the entire article by D. W. Kerr, “A Pentecostal Businessman,” on pages 8 and 11 of the June 11, 1921, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Pruning of the Vine,” by Alice E. Luce

• “A Plea for our Missionaries,” by Frank Lindblad

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Should Pentecostals Reject the Doctrine of the Trinity?

Ernest S. Williams

Ernest S. Williams

This Week in AG History — October 18, 1927

By William Molenaar
Originally published on PE-News, 15 October 2015

Should Pentecostals reject the doctrine of the Trinity? This question — initially called the “New Issue” — divided early Pentecostals and compelled the young Assemblies of God in 1916 to adopt the Statement of Fundamental Truths, which affirmed Trinitarian orthodoxy.

“New Issue” advocates left the Assemblies of God and other Trinitarian Pentecostal churches and coalesced into their own organizations, which became known as the Oneness movement.

Ernest S. Williams, 34-year-old pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Assembly (Newark, New Jersey), wrote an article defending the Trinitarian view of the godhead in the October 18, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. The Oneness movement, apparently, continued to be a point of theological concern.

Williams began the article by demonstrating what he believed to be the faulty logic of the Oneness position. He noted that, according to Scripture, God gave Jesus “a name that was above every name” (Philippians 2:9). Trinitarians interpret this to mean that God the Father gave Jesus a name that is above every name. Williams noted that Oneness advocates have difficulty explaining how this verse could be consistent with their belief that Jesus is God the Father. According to Oneness theology, “God” (Jesus) would have given Jesus the name above all other names. Williams pointed out that one would “conclude that there are two Lord Jesus Christs; one an intelligent Giver, and the other an intelligent Receiver.” He humorously noted, “Thus their own logic would cut their own heads off, since they teach only one personality in the Godhead.”

Williams proceeded to explain the logic of biblically grounded Trinitarian theology, appealing to Scripture, reason, and church history.

What became of the young pastor who carefully taught theology in the pages of the Pentecostal Evangel? E. S. Williams went on to serve as a leading Pentecostal systematic theologian and general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (1929-1949).

Read the article by E. S. Williams, “The Godhead,” on page 4 of the Oct. 18, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in the issue:

• “Soul Food for Hungry Saints,” by A. G. Ward

• “Jesus, the Heart of God,” by A. P. Collins

• “The Great Western Camp Meeting at Los Angeles, Cal.,” by T. Anderson

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions are courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

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Evangelism is not Optional: Christians will either Evangelize or Apostatize

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This Week in AG History–May 23, 1954
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 21 May 2015

Could there be a task that is more important or more daunting than the evangelization of the world? James Stewart, in a 1954 Pentecostal Evangel article, challenged readers to creatively and proactively fulfill the Great Commission. He wrote, “The magnitude of the unfinished task forces us to witness in unconventional places, at unconventional times, with an unconventional approach. It is our duty to go to the unsaved with the Gospel and not wait until they come to us.”

Stewart appealed to the testimonies of believers from centuries past to inspire the current generation to reach the lost for Christ. He noted that many heralded evangelists ministered outside the walls of church buildings. John Wesley preached in a cemetery, atop his father’s tombstone. The Apostle Paul preached Christ on Mars Hill among the pagan temples and Greek philosophers. Dwight L. Moody accepted Christ in a shoe shop.Stewart implored readers to think of the church not as a building, but as a body of believers. Past revivals, he noted, occurred when Christians shared the gospel “in the market squares, circus tents, village greens, prisons, public houses, and everywhere the unsaved frequented.”

While holding large evangelistic services in public areas has long been important in evangelical and Pentecostal churches, Stewart admonished that evangelism must also be personal. “Mass evangelism,” he wrote, “will never be a substitute for personal evangelism.”

Personal evangelism, according to Stewart, required the involvement of “ordinary, common believers.” The great revivals of the past involved carpenters, farmers, miners, street cleaners, teachers, and men and women from all walks of life who “went forth with flaming fire.” The Bible and church history teach that professional clergy alone cannot bring revival; a true move of God must catch fire at the grassroots.

Evangelism is not optional for Christians. Stewart wrote that Christians will “either evangelize or apostatize.” His concluding remarks encouraged believers to consecrate themselves to God and to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

He wrote, “Let us dedicate our lives, talents, possessions, and time to the sacred task of world-wide witness. We are couriers of the Cross. The task is great but not impossible. The Holy Ghost is here to empower us. Without the baptism of power our ministry is in vain.”

Read the article, “The Church is Challenged!” by James Stewart, on pages 4, 10 and 11 of the May 23, 1954, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:
• “Honor the Holy Spirit!” by P. S. Jones
• “How Spurgeon Found Christ”
And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

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E. S. Williams: 1937 New Year’s Message for the Assemblies of God


This Week in AG History–January 16, 1937
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 14 January 2015

While much has changed in the past 78 years, Ernest S. William’s New Year’s admonition to the Assemblies of God in 1937 remains strikingly relevant. Williams was the only veteran of the Azusa Street Revival to serve as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (1929-1949). Known for his spiritual depth, he led the Fellowship during a period of significant numerical growth.

Williams took the helm of the Fellowship the same year as the Great Depression began. In 1929, the Assemblies of God reported 1,612 churches with 91,981 members. By 1937 those tallies had approximately doubled to 3,473 churches with 175,362 members.

“God has blessed our fellowship of Spirit-filled redeemed people with a phenomenal growth,” Williams acknowledged. However, he warned readers of “danger” that accompanied growth. With the increase in numbers, Williams cautioned, comes the temptation to rely on “human ideas and human methods, not all of which are sanctified to the glory of God.”

Christians are called to live and worship “in spirit and in truth” and “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” Williams wrote. Any substitute would cause the Assemblies of God to suffer “grievous loss.” He suggested that “prayerful watchfulness and entire consecration” were required to maintain this spiritual calling.

Williams encouraged believers to seek unity. He expressed his belief that the Pentecostal movement “would be a far greater service to God were it all united.” It may not be God’s will, he clarified, that this unity be expressed organizationally. In his view, believers should be united “in one spirit and Christian fellowship” and in “Christian love and worship.”

While Williams opposed divisions due to “sectarian causes,” he acknowledged that true Christian unity could only develop among believers who embraced solid doctrine and morals. “Let us therefore show Christian love and Christian fellowship to all of God’s children who love and do the truth, wherever they may be,” Williams wrote, “but let us continue an uncompromising stand against tolerance of evil wherever it is found.”

Williams concluded his New Year’s message with a missionary call. “The uttermost parts of the earth is our motto,” he propounded. “May the coming year be one of rich harvests in souls and in personal soul development.” This dual concern for deep spirituality and sharing the gospel continues to be central to Assemblies of God identity.

Read Williams’ article, “The Task That Is Before Us,” on page 4 of the January 16, 1937, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Leaving the Choice with the Lord,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

• “Power, Love and a Sound Mind,” by Donald Gee

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

– See more at: http://www.penews.org/Article/This-Week-in-AG-History-%E2%80%94-January-16,-1937/#sthash.uNUNChh6.dpuf

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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