Tag Archives: Myer Pearlman

Myer Pearlman: The Story behind the Foremost Assemblies of God Systematic Theologian of the 1930s and 1940s

pearlman-myer

This Week in AG History — October 27, 1934

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 27 October 2016

Myer Pearlman (1898-1943) was one of the foremost educators and writers in the early Pentecostal movement. Born into a Jewish family in Edinburgh, Scotland, he moved with his family to Birmingham, England, at age seven. He received his common-school training at the Birmingham Hebrew School and excelled in his studies. At age 14 he mastered the French language on his own and later used this knowledge to act as an interpreter for the U.S. Army during World War I.

He immigrated to the United States (New York City) in 1915 and enlisted in the Army Medical Corps when he was 19. After the war, he moved to California where one night he felt drawn inside the Glad Tidings Mission (now Glad Tidings Church) in San Francisco. The people were singing an inspirational hymn called “Honey in the Rock.” After several months of attending the church, Pearlman was converted to Christ and baptized in the Holy Spirit.

He graduated from Central Bible Institute (CBI) in Springfield, Missouri, in 1925, and was immediately asked to join the faculty. In 1927 he married Irene Graves, whose father, F. A. Graves, had composed “Honey in the Rock.”

Pearlman was a premier Assemblies of God systematic theologian of his era. He wrote extensively and taught a variety of courses, but he is best known for his synthesis classes on the Old Testament and New Testament. He was fluent in Hebrew, Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian.

In addition to his teaching career, Pearlman was a prolific writer. For many years he prepared the Adult Teacher’s Quarterly and Adult Student’s Quarterly. He contributed articles to the Pentecostal Evangel, and during World War II he edited Reveille, a devotional publication for American servicemen. He also authored Seeing the Story of the Bible (1930), Why We Believe the Bible Is God’s Book (1931), The Life and Teachings of Christ (1935), Through the Bible Book by Book (1935), The Heavenly Gift (1935), the Minister’s Service Book (1941), Windows Into the Future (1941), Daniel Speaks Today (1943), and several other books. Three of Pearlman’s books are still in print and are available through the Gospel Publishing House 

Pearlman also wrote the weekly Sunday school lesson for the Pentecostal Evangel from December 1932-May 1935. A sample lesson found in the Oct. 27, 1934, issue is called “Christian Growth.” The lesson emphasizes that Christians first need to follow Christ’s example of being about His Father’s business (Luke 2:42-52) and then move forward in the plans of God for our lives and His church (2 Peter 1:5-8). In a nutshell, those two elements promote healthy Christian growth. Pearlman emphasized, “There is no standstill in the spiritual life; if we are not advancing we are retreating.”

Myer Pearlman was well-loved by his coworkers and by the faculty and students at CBI. Unfortunately, due to overwork and health issues, Pearlman passed away at the young age of 44. He is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri.

The 1942 CBI yearbook, “The Cup,” was dedicated to him, and later the school library was named after him. The yearbook praised Pearlman for “his sterling Christian character and capable ministry.” The dedication continued: “We have seen the Christ whom he serves in his godly life, and the underlying element of human understanding and humility of heart expressed in his kindly dealings with the students. His knowledge and versatility qualify him for the wide sphere of service in which he so ably participates. His ready wit and originality have given us many gems which we shall cherish, while his sparkling humor has been a source of delight to all.”

Read Myer Pearlman’s article, “Christian Growth,” on page 9 of the Oct. 27, 1934, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “How Shall I Curse Whom God Hath Not Cursed?” by Lilian Yeomans

• “Seed Thoughts,” by Alice E. Luce

• “Questions and Answers,” by E. S. Williams

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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Are We Living in a Transition Period?


Image: Myer Pearlman

This Week in AG History — July 30, 1932

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, Mon, 29 Jul 2013 – 4:21 PM CST

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. The Assemblies of God’s view of the end times spoke directly to this cultural chaos.

The Assemblies of God, like many other evangelical groups, 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 realism.

Myer Pearlman, a prominent Assemblies of God systematic theologian, described these rapid societal changes in a 1932 Pentecostal Evangel article titled “At the Dividing Point of Two Ages.” Pearlman, himself a Jewish believer in Christ, drew heavily upon Jewish scholarship in his voluminous writings. In his article, Pearlman quoted Dr. Judah L. Magnes, the chancellor of Hebrew University in Palestine: “There was never a time when civilization was so near ending as the present…It is indeed a momentous time, a time of revolution, comparable perhaps to that period of late Judaism and early Christianity, when men were awaiting the end, and yet were planning new life and new doctrine.”

Pearlman summed up the cultural moment with this phrase: “we are living in a transition period.”

Magnes identified a parallel between the birth of the church two thousand years ago and contemporary world events. In his article, Pearlman built upon this parallel, identifying characteristics of the culture when the church was birthed and comparing these characteristics to the current era.

Pearlman identified seven general characteristics of the culture 2,000 years ago:

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 exchange goods and ideas.

5)  It was an age of religious universalism. Religious 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 twentieth century. 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 the church, perched on the edge of the dividing line between the two ages, respond to this eschatological hope? Pearlman encouraged believers to “lift up their head sin joyous expectancy when these things come to pass, and to watch to keep their lamps lighted and filled with oil, and faithfully to use their talents until he comes.”

Read the entire 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. For current editions of the Evangelclick here.

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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1981 Interview with Irene Pearlman

Standing in the back (l-r): Carl Graves, and Arthur Graves. Seated in the front is Irene Graves Pearlman (Mrs. Myer Pearlman). Taken in the 1920s.


Wayne E. Warner interviews Irene Pearlman, widow of Myer Pearlman and daughter of F. A. Graves, in Springfield, Missouri, January 22, 1981.
ID: V019

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Seize the Moment

How will the current economic troubles affect the Assemblies of God? According to common wisdom, economic downturns bring spiritual upturns. As the theory goes, when people discover they cannot be self-sufficient, they look for spiritual solutions to their problems.

But is this really the case? History reveals that the Assemblies of God grew significantly during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but its growth was a deviation from the norm. Most churches suffered great setbacks. What really happened during the Great Depression? What lessons can this history provide for the Assemblies of God of the twenty-first century?

Mainline Decline
The Great Depression of the 1930s devastated many segments of American Christianity. Historian Mark Noll noted that mainline Protestants not only faced economic uncertainties, but also theological uncertainties as liberal theology had begun to replace historic Christian beliefs. Many mainline congregations, schools, and ministries had to close or drastically cut back. Their institutions, funded by endowments that disappeared with the Wall Street crash, were running off the fumes of the past.

However, there was a noticeable exception to the decline of religious institutions in the 1930s: evangelical and Pentecostal churches made significant gains. According to Noll, these “sectarian” churches “knew better how to redeem the times.”

Pentecostal Growth
In September 1929, the AG reported 1,612 churches with 91,981 members in the US. By 1944, this tally increased to 5,055 churches with 227,349 members. During that 15-year period, the number of AG churches tripled and membership almost tripled.

This growth didn’t happen by accident. Our forefathers and foremothers during the Great Depression laid a foundation for the expansion of the Assemblies of God, often at a tremendous cost. Of today’s seven largest AG colleges and universities, four were started during the Great Depression: North Central University (1930); Northwest University (1934); Southeastern University (1935); and Valley Forge Christian College (1939).

Myer Pearlman was a prolific writer during the Great Depression.

It was during these hard times that AG scholarship blossomed. Myer Pearlman (1898-1943), P. C. Nelson (1868-1942), and E. S. Williams (1885-1981) wrote many of their influential theological books in the midst of the Great Depression. Pearlman and Nelson literally worked themselves to death, their health breaking under the strain of constant writing, teaching, and preaching.

The AG’s foreign missions enterprise was centralized and strengthened during the Depression. This change encouraged coordination of efforts and accountability. The AG published its first Missionary Manual in 1931 and in 1933 the AG began providing funding for a missions staff at Headquarters. While the Great Depression made finances tight, in 1933 the Foreign Missions Department trumpeted that it did not have to recall any missionaries because of shortage of funds. Indeed, from 1930 to 1939, AG world missions giving increased by 47 percent, the number of world missionaries increased by 25 percent, and the constituency outside the US increased by 132 percent. When other denominations were retreating, the AG was making significant advances in missions.

While Pentecostals decried the Social Gospel movement, which they viewed as caring for physical needs while neglecting spiritual needs, many churches strove to evangelize in both word and deed. One of the best-known churches engaged in social outreach during the Depression was Pentecostal — Angelus Temple, the Los Angeles congregation founded by Aimee Semple McPherson. The congregation operated numerous soup kitchens and free clinics in the 1930s. Countless smaller storefront rescue missions dotted the Pentecostal landscape of that era.

Large-scale population migrations forced by the economic upheaval of the 1930s resulted in the unplanned evangelization of new regions. Pentecostals who left the Midwest during the Dustbowl established numerous Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Holiness, and Pentecostal Church of God congregations in the western states. African-American Pentecostals from the rural South migrated to northern cities and started Church of God in Christ congregations in almost every major city. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the U.S. returned to Mexico, including many new Pentecostal believers who, in effect, became indigenous missionaries to their homeland. In the providence of God, the painful social dislocation of the 1930s helped bring about the rapid spread of Pentecostalism. Like pollen scattered by a strong wind, Pentecostal refugees planted churches wherever they happened to land.

In raw economic terms, an economic downturn offers a great opportunity for churches to expand their base. Finances will be tight in the meantime, but once the economy turns around, the churches will be much better off than they had been previously, with a larger and more committed membership.

Despair or Desperation?
Some Pentecostals actually seemed to celebrate the challenges of the Depression. The monthly magazine of The Stone Church (an AG congregation in Chicago) published this editorial note: “Our chief difficulty is that we have been bitten by the luxury bug. Nations can stand almost any adversity better than that of the debilitating, enervating, calamity of prosperity. The Word of God declares that, ‘In prosperity the destroyer shall come’” (Job 15:21). One can almost hear the writer saying, “Bring it on, financial struggles will only make us stronger.”

C. M. Ward and his wife, Dorothy, were married just after the stock market crashed in 1929.

C. M. Ward, the voice of the Revivaltime radio broadcast from 1953 to 1978, echoed this sentiment. He and his fiancée, Dorothy, set their wedding date for Christmas Day, 1929. Of course, one month before their wedding, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Ward couldn’t afford to buy a wedding ring, much less presents, for their first Christmas. He later learned that times of deprivation like this birthed one of two things: either despair or desperation. Despair caused people to simply give up, but desperation spurred people to work hard and be creative.

Need for Vision
Churches, however, are not guaranteed to grow during bad times. Indeed, AG evangelist Christine Kerr Peirce observed in 1935, “Instead of the depression driving people to God, there has developed an apathy and indifference which has not characterized previous periods of distress, when men have turned to God for help.”

Peirce’s lament for the church in 1935 could easily describe the condition of the American church in 2009: “Our modern methods are fast wearing out. That which a few years ago attracted the great crowds, attracts them no more. We have worn out every spectacular appeal we could make and while a few are reached here and there, yet the truth stares us plainly in the face that nowhere are we doing more than just scratching the surface, in comparison with the great number of unchurched and unsaved that should be reached.”

Why was the church in such a state of spiritual stupor? According to Peirce, “The backslidden, apathetic, lethargic condition of the pew today is due largely to the fact that this work [evangelism] has been left in the hands of the pulpit.” Instead, she averred, every Christian is called to be a witness.

How can the church remedy this problem? Peirce dismissed the idea that the church needs methods that are even “more spectacular.” Instead, she propounded, “The need of the present moment is Men and Women of Vision!” Christians first “must see God Himself,” and then must have a “vision of others.” She elaborated, “A true vision of the lost world will prostrate us on our face with a burden of intercession.”

According to Peirce, then, the visionary church must be worshipful and missional. While Peirce’s critique was aimed at the American church in general, she recognized that Assemblies of God members could very easily lose their vision and replace their passion for God and for souls with a reliance on modern methods. However, visionary Assemblies of God leaders viewed the economic crisis as an opportunity, leading the Fellowship to engage in ardent prayer and great personal sacrifice to advance a cause that was much bigger than any one person.

Seize the Moment
The history of the Assemblies of God illustrates the Fellowship’s compelling vision of world evangelization through voluntary cooperation to accomplish what individual Pentecostal believers or churches could not do alone. Hopefully, these testimonies will encourage readers to likewise see the current economic turmoil as an opportunity to reassess priorities, to love those who are hurting, and to lay a broader foundation for the future of the Assemblies of God. Even as we look back at the heroes of the faith who grabbed hold of big ideas and sacrificed greatly to bring them to fruition, I pray that we, the inheritors of this legacy, will seize this moment and invest in the future of our faith.

To learn more about the history of the Assemblies of God, visit the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center’s Web site.

Written by Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin J. Rodgers, this editorial was published in the 2009 Assemblies of God Heritage magazine.

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