Category Archives: Theology

E.N. Bell’s 1919 Response to Oneness Pentecostalism

BaptismThis Week in AG History —September 6, 1919

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 06 September 2018

In 1913, a doctrinal view that later fractured the young Pentecostal movement found its roots in a camp meeting In Los Angeles. The resulting divide into Trinitarians and Oneness Pentecostals, sometimes called “The New Issue,” was addressed many times by early Assemblies of God leaders, coming down firmly on the side of the historic Christian view of the Trinity.

At a camp meeting at Arroyo Seco, California, many people began to notice the miracles that came in response to prayers, “in the name of Jesus.” Amid this focus, a man named John Scheppe claimed to have had a revelation of the power of the name of Jesus. Another minister remarked that the apostles did not mention baptizing in the “name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” but rather “in the name of Jesus.” After the camp meeting, many began to rebaptize in “the name of Jesus” only.

Gradually, some began to consider what baptizing in “Jesus Only” implied. Some preachers began to preach that when Scripture speaks of “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” that it meant that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost had a name: Jesus. Eventually, this led to the understanding that there was only one person in the godhead — Jesus Christ. The teaching spread that Jesus IS the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Many Pentecostals accepted rebaptism in Jesus’ name (including E. N. Bell, the first general chairman of the Assemblies of God) without accepting a denial of the Trinity. Wanting everything that Jesus had for them they gladly were willing to undergo the waters of baptism in identifying with the power of His name. However, the confusion that resulted led to many ministerial discussions, debates, and numerous articles. At the 1915 General Council it was recommended that there be no divisions based on baptismal formulas but a resolution was passed affirming the distinctions with the Trinity. In 1916, the General Council approved a “Statement of Fundamental Truths” that clearly articulated where the Assemblies of God stood on the deity of Christ and the Trinity.

E. N. Bell, the first general chairman (later called general superintendent), in the Sept. 6, 1919, Pentecostal Evangel addressed this issue in an article entitled, “The Great Controversy and Confusion.” Some of the brothers advocating the “Jesus Only” position had reported that the newly formed Assemblies of God was opposed to baptism in the manner in which the apostles baptized in the book of Acts and that church leadership was preventing “teaching that exalts Him (Jesus) as God.”

Bell explained that the General Council of the Assemblies of God did not raise any issue over people baptizing in the name of Jesus until “there came to be attached to it certain fundamental errors” that “made only the entering wedge for other teaching not found in Acts” or “a single line in the whole New Testament.”

Bell continued to expound upon the understanding of the nature of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: “There is That in the Father of Jesus which makes Him the Father and not the Son; there in That in the Son of God which makes Him the Son and not the Father; and there is That in the Holy Ghost which makes Him the Holy Ghost and not the Son. Yes, the Father is the Begetter of Jesus, and Jesus is the Begotten. The Father is not the Begotten of Jesus, and Jesus is not the Begetter of the Father … God in His Word uniformly maintains these distinctions.”

The split in the young Pentecostal movement was difficult for the leaders on both sides as each sought to lift up the name of Jesus and see Him glorified in the power of the Holy Spirit through their lives and ministry. Differences in scriptural understanding led to difficult choices in supporting ministries and in fellowshipping together.

Bell ended his 1919 article with these words, “If the other brethren had never introduced other matters dishonoring to the Father and to the Son, and contrary to the Scriptures, and had held only for the matchless and glorious TRUE DEITY of the blessed Son of God, then we would be all pulling together today … if they will drop all these unscriptural issues and hold only for His true Deity, we can do it yet.”

Doctrinal divides are never easy within the body of Christ. The Assemblies of God has sought, since its beginning, to hold fast to scriptural teachings as a primary way to uphold unity within the Church of Jesus Christ.

Read E. N. Bell’s article, “The Great Controversy and Confusion,” on page 6 of the Sept. 6, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

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

• “Sunday School Lesson from a Pentecostal Perspective”

• “Pacific Pentecostal Bible School,” by Elder D.W. Kerr

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Did French Theologian Jacques Ellul Express Interest in Becoming a Pentecostal?

Ellul

According to longtime Assemblies of God educator and missionary Dr. George R. Stotts, leading French Reformed theologian Dr. Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) inquired about becoming a member of the French Assemblies of God in the 1930s or 1940s.

When Ellul was 17 years old, he experienced what he believed to be the presence of God. The experience was overwhelming and unforgettable. This seed of faith did not develop, and he became a convinced Marxist while studying at university. In 1932, however, he converted to Christ and the trajectory of his life changed. He rejected Marxism and ended up becoming a French Reformed pastor and theologian. In Ellul’s early years, when he apparently inquired about joining the French Assemblies of God, he was sorting out his theological views. In Ellul’s later years, he adopted various theological stances which would have been at odds with most theologically conservative evangelical or Pentecostal churches.

The following is a transcription of a letter by Stotts, which he deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, recounting his interactions with Ellul.

Jacques Ellul: Something That Most People Do Not Know

The undersigned knew Professor Ellul very well. We lived in neighboring town when my wife and I lived in France. The French Assemblies of God Bible School, located in Leognan, invited Dr. Ellul as guest lecturer which gave him pleasure to accept. I have attended his French Reformed Church as well as a Bible study on the Book of Romans which he gave in his church. Additionally, my colleague, Professor Gerard Bachke, a French Assemblies of God pastor and a professor at their Bible school, was well acquainted with Professor Ellul. From time to time he invited us to his home where we had interesting discussions, some philosophical but most were religious in nature, particularly the spiritual state of the French Reformed Church.

It was during Brother Bachke and my last visit in his home that he recounted for us an interesting part of his religious past. It was either in the late 1930s or early 1940s when he approached the leadership of the French Assemblies of God. The purpose of the meeting was to inquire about his becoming a member in the Movement. His interest in the Pentecostal movement was based on what he felt was lacking in the French Reformed Church—for the most part it had become a cold and static part of a greater part of the Protestant Reformation. After a rather lengthy discussion about his interest in becoming part of the French Assemblies, he asked of the brethren to discuss his desire and then get back to him. Unfortunately, the French Assemblies’ delegation never re-contacted him. His comment to Professor Bachke and myself was “I don’t think that the brothers nor the Movement wanted me because of my education. Perhaps they do not know how to handle that.”

Professor Bachke and myself were very surprised to hear his comments about his desire to leave the French Reformed Church and to be part of the French Assemblies of God. After bidding him ‘au revoir,’ our conclusion was that he was probably right in his assessment, RE: his education and standing in French intellectual and academic circles would be too much for the French Assemblies of God. He taught for many decades at the University of Bordeaux, walking to and from class every day for he never learned to drive.

A personal comment: having talked with Professor Ellul, having heard his lectures to the Bible School students, and having heard him preach and teach the Epistle to the Romans, he never ever came across as some pedantic person; rather, he was one of the most humble men whom I have ever met.

It is important to state that in my research for my doctorate, The History of the Modern French Pentecostal Movement, I was rather surprised by what I found. Douglas Scott, the English Pentecostal evangelist who brought the Pentecostal message to France had one goal: not to start a new denomination, rather to take the Pentecostal message to the French churches, [including] the Roman Catholic church. Mr. Scot was successful in doing so. Quoting from my dissertation: “Important to the understanding the spread of Pentecostalism in France is the effect that the message [of Pentecost] had on Baptist churches in North France and on the French Reformed Church. Many of the Baptist churches, anticipating a spiritual movement, accepted Pentecostalism as that which they were seeking. In the camp of the French Reformed, Ax Bernoulli, pastor of the French Reformed Church of St. Chamond, Loire, expressed the sentiments of many Reformed ministers when he stated that our churches need revival and we hope that many of the pastors and church officials of France will stretch out a fraternal hand to our brother of the Pentecostal Movement. Scott had a close collaboration with many French Reformed pastors, and was asked on a number of occasions to address Consistories of the Reformed Church on the subject of the Holy Spirit and Pentecostalism.” [See chapter IV: Growth and Development: 1930-1939 of my thesis THE HISTORY OF THE MODERN PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT IN FRANCE.]

One can only conjecture what might have been another chapter in the history of the French Pentecostal Movement if the delegation of French Assemblies of God pastors had only met with Jacques Ellul and to have invited him to be part of the Movement.

George R. Stotts
December 2010

____________________________

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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Was the Dust Bowl a Sign of God’s Judgment on America? A Pentecostal Leader Responds to this Question.

Dust BowlThis Week in AG History — August 25, 1934

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 24 August 2017

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus addressed the question, “Do tragic current events indicate God’s judgment for sin?” Jesus was referring to both a political crisis and the natural occurrence of a deteriorating tower that toppled and crushed 18 people.  In the Aug. 25, 1934, Pentecostal Evangel article, “Is It Superstition?” General Superintendent E. S. Williams addressed a similar question: “Is the Dust Bowl a sign that America is under God’s judgment?”

1934 was a difficult year for much of the United States. The Great Depression was still in full swing with an unemployment rate of 21.7 percent. The new president, Franklin Roosevelt, had begun a redistribution of wealth that some feared would lead the United States to a more Communistic form of government.  To top it off, 1934 saw the worst farming conditions in centuries with 71.6 percent of western North America in drought as the Dust Bowl reached its zenith.  This combination of political crisis in the Great Depression and natural crisis in the Dust Bowl caused many Americans to ask, “Are we under the judgment of God for our sins?”

One particular sin that seemed to be on the mind of some was the Department of Agriculture’s slaughter of 6,000,000 pigs in an attempt to control the price of pork in 1933.  Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, made the following statement, “My attention has been called to a statement by a minister out in the Corn Belt before the district conference of his faith. Concerning the actions of the New Deal he says: ‘… some of them are downright sinful as the destruction of foodstuffs in the face of present want.’ I have been used to statements of this sort by partisans, demagogues, politicians, and even newspaper columnists … But when a minister of the gospel makes a statement, we expect it to be the truth.”

In his opening paragraph, Williams addressed this directly: “… officials of the Department of Agriculture are a bit concerned over the spread of the superstition that the disastrous drought which had gripped our land was God’s way of punishing folks … (they) went on to say that this superstition started in the pulpits of Iowa.”

Williams took issue with the term “superstition” defining it as “a belief founded on irrational feelings, especially of fear.” He cautioned his readers that, indeed, they should “be careful … lest they reach rash and hurried conclusions” in their fear and concerns for the future of their livelihood and nation.

However, Williams also cautioned “At the same time it would be folly to blindly shut our eyes and refuse to inquire whether or not there may be back of present conditions a moral cause … Let us not be so foolish as to follow the worldly wise who know not God and for that reason may look upon wholesome fear and honest inquiry as but superstition.”

Williams believed that the root cause of the current troubles went much deeper than concern over agricultural direction: “Destruction of cattle and restriction of crops may have been a blunder; but we must look far deeper than to this alone if we would get to the bottom of our troubles. Our chiefest mischief as a nation is that we have departed from dependence upon and reverence for the living God.”

He bluntly asked the question of the drought, “Are these things mere accidents of an evolving nature or are they the voice of God?” Williams does not claim to know the answer to this question in its fullness on a national scale but he does counsel Evangel readers to use the current tragedy as occasion to examine their own need for repentance, encouraging them “if He shows you things which you ought to make right, make them right without delay, for, ‘except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’”

Read the full article “Is It Superstition?” on page 2 of the Aug. 25, 1934, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“A Famous Entertainer Becomes a Faith Missionary,” by Esther B. Harvey

“Aeneas, Jesus Christ Cures You,” by Lilian Yeomans, M.D.

“Congo Women Touched By Gospel,” by Mary Walker

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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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:

_________________

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?

TWJune11_Kerr_1400

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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