Tag Archives: Salvation

Dr. Howard Thomas: The Remarkable Deliverance of a Physician from Drug Addiction

HowardThomas3

Dr. Howard Thomas, preaching to an Assemblies of God congregation, circa 1970

This Week in AG History — May 3, 1970

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 4 May 2017

Dr. Howard Thomas (1927-2016) had a promising career as a physician, but a drug addiction almost destroyed his marriage and professional life in the early 1960s. After hitting rock bottom and ending up in a private sanatorium for treatment, he turned to Christ and experienced a radical transformation. Against all odds, Thomas was allowed to keep his medical license. He became a dedicated member of the Assemblies of God and frequently shared his testimony of his deliverance from addiction to drugs. The May 3, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published his remarkable story.

Thomas was raised in a rural Tennessee community where alcohol was a way of life and where religious influences were minimal. Recreational activities always seemed to include liquor bottles. Thomas partied hard, but he also worked hard. He married, attended college, studied diligently, and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1954.

Thomas and another doctor purchased a clinic in Henderson, Tennessee. Thomas and his wife, Ann, seemed to be living the American dream. They were respected members of their community, and their future was bright.

HowardThomas2

Howard and Ann Thomas, circa 1970

However, the Thomases’ lifestyle of partying led them into trouble. They began attending private parties hosted by local professionals. Drug use and sexual sin were commonplace.

Dr. Thomas recounted: “Practically all the people at these parties were church people. The parties got worse and worse. I would have to describe them as vile and vulgar. Yet on Sunday morning you could see these same people in the pews and teaching Sunday school classes and serving the churches.”

The Thomases joined in the hypocrisy. They maintained a veneer of respectability, even while they adopted destructive lifestyles. Their hearts were far from God. Dr. Thomas later said, “Our morals got lower and lower.”

Family and work pressures took their toll, and Thomas began taking pills to help him stay awake. He learned to depend on stimulants and began injecting amphetamine. He soon moved on to harder drugs, including Demerol and morphine. When Ann was feeling ill, he gave her a shot of Demerol. Soon, she was also addicted.

Life was spinning out of control. They tried to escape their problems by leaving Henderson and moving to Arizona, where he accepted a position as a company doctor. Their drug habit, however, was not solved by distance. Dr. Thomas, increasingly, was unable to focus sufficiently to perform surgeries, and Ann became mentally disturbed and could not be home alone.

Ann’s condition deteriorated, and her parents came from Tennessee to help with the children. The family decided to move back to Tennessee, where Thomas opened up another practice. He thought he could “snap out of it” and that everything would be all right.

However, Thomas could not kick his drug habit and things got worse. He developed festering abscesses on his hips and shoulders, and he had difficulty hiding his addictions. Ultimately, his parents had him committed at a neuropsychiatric hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He escaped from the hospital. He went on to hold a series of failed short-term positions as a doctor, until he deteriorated to the point of being unable to function. He slept in his car in the woods or in a gravel pit, and patients never knew where to find him.

Dr. Thomas was recommitted at the Murfreesboro hospital, this time behind locked steel doors. He was devastated. He was confined for seven weeks, where he went through withdrawal. However, he still had cravings for drugs. He knew that he would return to his former lifestyle once he was free. In the meantime, Ann had filed for divorce.

Thomas was released from the hospital and he found another job. One day, in July 1965, a truck driver asked Thomas to attend a men’s religious retreat. Thomas tried to say “no,” but the truck driver was persistent. Thomas went, and the services were unlike anything he had ever seen.

The men were not trying to impress anyone. They were not playing church. They testified how God delivered them from lives of sin, they prayed, and they called on God in prayer. Thomas came to realize that these men had something that he desperately needed – he needed God’s power in his life.

A Spirit-filled Methodist electrician and plumber led Thomas to the Lord at the meeting. Thomas later recalled, “I felt clean. I felt the same way as the other men. I was full of praise. I wanted to testify. My first thought was to go to Ann and tell her about Jesus. I knew she was lost.”

Thomas returned from the retreat and told Ann that he accepted Jesus and was a new man. She was skeptical. Her mother warned her to not go back to him. He had promised for years that he would kick his addictions, but never did.

Thomas began attending a local Methodist church, where the pastor invited him to share his testimony. Word spread throughout the region of Dr. Thomas’ remarkable deliverance from drugs, and he began to receive invitations to speak at schools and churches. He also reconciled with his wife, Ann.

After accepting Christ, Thomas began reading the Bible. He became convinced from the Bible that Christ provided an experience subsequent to salvation – baptism in the Holy Spirit – that provided empowerment for daily living. He had heard some of the men at the retreat talking about the experience. He knew that he needed God’s power in his life.

The Thomases met Ralph Duncan, an Assemblies of God pastor in Rutherford, Tennessee, and invited him to hold special services in Saltillo, the small town where they were living. Ann received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in those meetings, and she became a different person. She said, “Honey, it’s real. It’s real!” Dr. Thomas was likewise baptized in the Holy Spirit a short time later.

Meanwhile, the Board of Medical Examiners had started the process of revoking Thomas’ license to practice medicine. Dr. Thomas made a full written confession of his addictions and misdeeds, and the board had no intention of giving him a second chance, based on his dismal record.

At Dr. Thomas’ hearing, the board grilled the Thomases and their parents for two hours. The board asked Ann, “How can you be so sure that he won’t go back on drugs?” She replied, “You don’t know the power of God.”

Stating it was against its better judgement, the board decided to permit Thomas to continue to practice medicine, on the condition that Ann write the board a letter every month assuring the board that everything is fine.

HowardThomas1Dr. Howard Thomas went to on to be a successful physician and a longtime Assemblies of God member. He frequently shared his testimony, including on television and radio. A widely-distributed booklet, Drugs, Despair, Deliverance: The Story of Dr. Howard Thomas (1971), was written by C. M. Ward, the host of the Assemblies of God’s Revivaltime radio broadcast. In 1975, David Mainse interviewed Thomas for the Assemblies of God’s Turning Point television program. Thomas had so many ministry opportunities that he became credentialed as an Assemblies of God minister from 1975 to 1981.

When Thomas went to be with the Lord in 2016, he and Ann had been married almost 70 years. While the first 20 years of their marriage was marked by addictions and destructive patterns, they spent their last 50 years as devoted Christians active in Assemblies of God churches.

Thomas’ testimony provides insight into the problem of drug addiction. From personal experience, Thomas understood that institutional care is not the answer to the drug problem. He wrote, “A man can be taken off drugs, but as soon as he is returned to society, and the same pressures set in, that man will return to drugs.”

Thomas also understood that psychiatry is limited in its ability to treat addiction. Psychiatrists recognized and analyzed Thomas’ addiction, but they could not cure the addiction. A cure required a change of heart. Addiction, Thomas came to realize, was a spiritual problem. He spent years attempting to treat his own addiction. However, Thomas found deliverance only after he placed his faith in Christ and allowed his heart and desires to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Read “I Was Hooked on Drugs,” by Howard W. Thomas, on pages 2-3 and 13 of the May 3, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Marriages Can Be Mended,” by C. M. Ward

• “From Black Magic to Christ,” by Armand Helou

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

3 Comments

Filed under Biography

The Healing of Joseph Wannenmacher: How a Gifted Violinist became an Assemblies of God Pioneer

P0283
This Week in AG History — October 29, 1949

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 29 October 2015

As a young man, Joseph P. Wannenmacher (1895-1989) was a rising star in the Milwaukee musical scene. But a miraculous healing in a small storefront mission in 1917 forever changed his life, and he went on to become a well-loved Assemblies of God pioneer pastor. He shared his powerful testimony in the October 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Like many other Milwaukee residents, Wannenmacher was an immigrant. He was born in Buzias, Hungary, to a family that was ethnically German and Hungarian. The Wannenmachers moved to Milwaukee in 1903, but his father was unable to adapt to American ways so they returned to Hungary after 10 months. In 1909, they returned to Milwaukee to stay.

From an early age, music helped define Joseph Wannenmacher’s life. In Hungary, he was surrounded by some of the nation’s best musicians and became a noted violinist. In Milwaukee, at age 18 he organized and conducted the Hungarian Royal Gypsy Orchestra (named after a similar group in his homeland), which performed at many of the region’s top entertainment venues.

Wannenmacher seemed to have it all. He could afford fashionable clothing, a gold watch, and diamond-studded jewelry. But underneath his successful veneer, Wannenmacher was haunted by his own human frailties.

Wannenmacher knew that he was dying a slow, painful death. His flesh would swell, develop blisters, and rot. Doctors diagnosed his condition as bone consumption. His sister had already died of the same malady. Anger boiled up in Wannenmacher as he grappled with the unfairness of life. He developed a sharp temper and, try as he might, he could not find peace.

Wannenmacher was raised in a devout Catholic home, so he turned to his faith to help him deal with his physical pain and bitterness. He frequently attended church and offered penance, but these practices did not seem to help.

He then turned to Luther’s German translation of the Bible, which someone had given to him, and began reading it voraciously. In its pages he discovered things he had never heard before. He read about Christ’s second coming, salvation by faith, and Christ’s power to heal. Perhaps most importantly, he learned that God is love. Up until that point, he had conceived of God as “Someone away up there with a long beard and a big club just waiting to beat me up.” But then, at age 18, he began to discover the gospel for himself.

In the midst of this spiritual awakening, Wannenmacher’s health was weakening. He could barely hold his violin bow in his hand, and the pain was almost unbearable. Then one morning in 1917 he heard about a group of German-speaking Pentecostals who prayed for the sick. The next service was scheduled for that afternoon, and Wannenmacher made a beeline for it. He wrote, “It was a dilapidated place, but the sweet presence of God was there.”

The small band of believers had been fasting and praying that God would send someone who was in need of salvation and healing. The service was unlike anything Wannenmacher had ever seen before. He watched the people get on their knees and cry out to God. Their outpouring of genuine faith moved Joseph’s heart.

The pastor, Hugo Ulrich, preached that sinners could be saved simply by trusting in Christ. It seemed too good to be true, Wannenmacher thought. Faith then came into his heart, and he started laughing for joy. The pastor thought Wannenmacher was mocking him, but Wannenmacher didn’t care. At the end of the service, Wannenmacher came forward to the altar and experienced a powerful encounter with God.

Wannenmacher described his time at the altar: “the power of God just struck me and shook for fully half an hour…the more His Spirit operated through my bones, through my muscles, through my being, the hotter I became. The more God’s power surged through me, the more I perspired. The Lord simply operated on that poor, diseased body of mine.”

He described this experience as being in the “operating room” of God. Later in the service, as he knelt at the altar rail in silent prayer, it seemed like heaven came down. He recalled, “As I waited there in God’s presence … [God’s] hands went down my body from head to toe, and every spirit of infirmity had to go. I got up, and I was a new man.”

A few days later, Wannenmacher was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He soon launched into gospel ministry and shared his testimony wherever he went. He played his violin and sang gospel songs during the lunch hour at the Harley Davidson plant, where he sometimes worked. He testified about his healing in hospitals, street corners, and other places. Everywhere he went, he prayed with people, and many accepted Christ and were healed. Wannenmacher’s family jokingly referred to his violin as the “healing violin,” because numerous people experienced healing as he played songs such as “The Heavenly City.”

In 1921 he married Helen Innes and started Full Gospel Church in Milwaukee. He went on to found six additional daughter churches in the area. He also served as the first superintendent of the Hungarian Branch of the Assemblies of God, which was organized in 1944 for Hungarian immigrants to America. After pastoring Full Gospel Church (renamed Calvary Assembly of God in 1944) for 39 years, he retired in 1960.

Throughout his ministry, Wannenmacher emphasized the importance of the Word of God. In his Pentecostal Evangel article, Wannenmacher compared reading the Bible to the mastery of music. “You have to practice and play music over and over again before you have mastered it,” he wrote, “and you have to apply yourself to those wonderful teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, too, in order to make them yours.”

While Joseph Wannenmacher went to be with the Lord in 1989, his legacy lives on in the churches he founded and in the people whose lives he touched. Calvary AG is continuing to reach people in the Milwaukee area and was renamed Honey Creek Church in 2015. Joseph and Helen’s three children, John, Philip, and Lois (Graber), were involved in Assemblies of God ministries. Philip served as pastor of Central Assembly of God (Springfield, Missouri) from 1970 to 1995. Philip’s daughter, Beth Carroll, serves as director of Human Resources at the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center. On the floor just above Beth’s office, Joseph’s “healing violin” is on display in the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum.

Joseph Wannenmacher’s story reminds believers that history never really disappears. People, events, and themes from the past tend to resurface in the present, but it often takes discernment to see them. God radically transformed Joseph Wannenmacher’s heart and healed his body, and the world has never been the same.

Read Joseph P. Wannenmacher’s article, “When God’s Love Came In,” on pages 2-3 and 11-13 of the October 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Life’s Supreme Objective,” by D. M. Carlson

• “Ministering to the Needy,” by J. H. Boyce

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Joseph Wannenmacher's

Joseph Wannenmacher’s “healing violin,” on display at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum

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

3 Comments

Filed under History, Music, Spirituality

Review: In Jesus’ Name

“In Jesus’ Name”: The History and Beliefs of Oneness Pentecostals, by David A. Reed. Blandford Forum, England: Deo Publishing, 2008.

David Reed’s book, “In the Name of Jesus,” is possibly the best study on the origins of Oneness Pentecostalism – that segment of the Pentecostal movement that rejects traditional Trinitarian formulas in favor of an emphasis on the name of Jesus. Reed’s own spiritual journey (he was reared in a Oneness Pentecostal church in New Brunswick, Canada, but is now an Anglican minister and educator) provided the impetus for his study of the Oneness movement, which has become his life’s work.

Reed divides his work into three sections – 1) the Pietist and evangelical legacies within Oneness Pentecostalism, 2) the birth of Oneness Pentecostalism, and 3) the theology of Oneness Pentecostalism.

Reed opens with a spotlight on the Pietist emphasis on searching out the truths of Scripture. Pietist leader Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705) gave priority to moral living over correct doctrine. Pietism tended to focus on spiritual process and growth, asking questions such as “Are you living yet in Jesus?” (pp. 13-14n).

The author traces the spirit of Pietism through the ministries of August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) and Nicholaus Ludwig Zinzendorf (1700-1760) with their emphasis on a heart religion that came about through repentance, conversion, weeping, practical piety and rejoicing. Zinzendorf was Christocentric, giving great value to the suffering and bleeding of Jesus. Reed states that Pietist devotion included an emphasis on the name of Jesus, which should come as no surprise. John Wesley later made his mark on the religious world with a two-fold emphasis on conversion and holiness of life.

Puritan clerics of the seventeenth century believed nearly the same as Pietists in the matter of experiential religion. According to Reed, “Pietism was a stream of spirituality that emphasized the affective and practical aspects of faith…it contributed to the working out of the distinctive doctrine of Oneness Pentecostals” (italics mine) (p. 32).

Reed argues that Oneness Pentecostalism arose from this evangelical Pietist and Puritan heritage. Whereas Pietists narrowed Spirit-baptism to a stream of spirituality that emphasized the affective and practical aspects of faith, Oneness Pentecostals extended this Pietistic hermeneutic to “the name of Jesus.” Oneness Pentecostals claimed that there is power in the Name if you have faith in the Name (and if you are buried by baptism in His Name). Further, it appears that Oneness Pentecostalism is a child of Jewish thought—a radical monotheism stressing one God and one Name. This Oneness belief maturated in the Holiness and early Pentecostal movements.

Wherever one found devotional literature, hymnody, and continued teaching by Pietist descendants, one often encountered the name of Jesus. “The phrase ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Only’ became commonplace among Keswick and Holiness writers” (p. 40), such as Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911).

Reed, in the second part of his book, deals with the birth of Oneness Pentecostalism, stating that it had two birthplaces: Topeka (1901) and Azusa Street (1906). “White Pentecostals, especially those in the Assemblies of God, have pinned their Pentecostal identity on Parham’s doctrine of glossolalia. Black Pentecostals, on the other hand, have identified with the Azusa Street Revival” (p. 81). He contends, however, that it is difficult to substantiate this claim. He further observes, “Oneness doctrine and practice may be more compatible in its core with an Afro-centric worldview than with that of non-Pentecostal white evangelicals” (p. 82).

Reed asserts: “The ‘Jesus Name’ or ‘Oneness’ paradigm is a radical (emphasis mine) soteriology constituted by: a non-trinitarian modalistic view of God, the name of Jesus as the revealed name of God, and the threefold pattern for full salvation set forth in Acts 2:38” (p. 113)—blood, water and Spirit [repentance, baptism in water in the name of Jesus, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit].

“For the uninformed outsider, Oneness Pentecostalism is a conundrum. Like other Pentecostal groups, it should be emphasizing the Spirit,” Reed states. “But it speaks about Jesus and denies the Trinity” (p. 338).

Reed’s book covers such topics as: Finished Work, Secret Rapture (Manchild Doctrine and Bride of Christ), Restoration Movement, New Issue, Re-baptism, Champions of the Trinitarian Cause, Old Testament Names of God and much, much more. It is a work that is based on rare and extensive research. At times, it seems that Reed tries to cover too much ground, but he is so full of information that he has to have an outlet. A pulpit is set up in every reader’s realm, from which Reed dispenses thoughts and opinions.

“The challenge of the future,” Reed concludes, “is hidden in its name and its inheritance: oneness. The earliest appeal to oneness in 1910 was that the Pentecostal movement be united. A decade later that appeal was applied sharply to racial unity. By 1930 it became a descriptor for the movement. Throughout its history, lack of oneness with full Pentecostals and other Christians has become enigmatic: for some a mark of doctrinal purity, for others, a sign of sin” (p. 363).

Reed emphasizes that the Oneness movement needs to receive fair and judicious treatment. However, Oneness Pentecostals may take offense at Reed’s statement that “There is within Scripture potential for developing a theology of the Name” (emphasis mine) (p. 356). He goes on to further point out particular weaknesses in Oneness theology, while fully supporting Trinitarianism.

The first part of the book leads one to believe that Reed fully supports the Oneness Pentecostal belief; however, as I perused his continuing discourse, I experienced opaque visions of Oneness Pentecostals as being inferior, and that they were not the norm.

“In Jesus’ Name” is the result of excellent research; it delves into scores of themes related to Oneness Pentecostalism; its common thread is the Name; and the reader, whether Trinitarian or Oneness, will enhance his knowledge of the Jesus’ Name doctrine.

Reviewed by Patricia P. Pickard, Independent scholar, Bangor, Maine

Softcover, 394 pages. $39.95 retail. Order from: amazon.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews, Theology

Review: Encountering God at the Altar

Encountering God at the Altar

Encountering God at the Altar: The Sacraments in Pentecostal Worship, by Daniel Tomberlin. Cleveland, TN: Center for Pentecostal Leadership and Care, 2006.

Since the beginning of the Pentecostal movement, experiencing the Spirit of God has been central to Pentecostals in both private and corporate worship. When it comes to congregational worship, Pentecostals have critiqued what they deem to be dead ritualism devoid of a personal experience of the Holy Spirit. As a result, Pentecostals have questioned many traditional practices relating to the sacraments (often viewed as theologically or historically suspect because of their relation to the Roman Catholic Church) and have opted for the term “ordinances” instead. The latter is often seen to be more of a faith-based means rather then a works-based means of experiencing the Spirit.

Daniel Tomberlin, pastor of Bainbridge Church of God (Bainbridge, GA) and chairman of Ministerial Development for the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) in South Georgia, has authored a book that will raise some eyebrows. In it, Tomberlin claims that Pentecostalism and sacramental worship are not mutually exclusive. Rather, he provides a stimulating discussion of how he believes Pentecostal worship is sacramental. This volume, which aims to provide an introduction to the subject for Pentecostal church leaders, is possibly one of the first educational resources of its kind published by a classical Pentecostal denomination.

Encountering God at the Altar touches on topics such as Pentecostal worship and spirituality. Tomberlin develops a Pentecostal theology of the sacraments and also explores the practice of the sacraments in Pentecostal worship.In following Church of God theologian Kenneth Archer, Tomberlin argues for the retrieval of the term sacrament over the term ordinance, claiming that the ordinances are sacramental — a “means of grace” where one encounters the Holy Spirit (p. 24). The author rightly points out that Pentecostal spirituality is centered on encountering the Holy Spirit. “Therefore,” Tomberlin states, “the center and focus of Pentecostal worship is the altar” (p. 19).

When addressing whether life in the church and the sacraments are essential to salvation, Tomberlin identifies the church and sacraments as “secondary salvific gifts,” compared to the Son and Spirit as “primary salvific gifts” from the Father. At the same time he ultimately admits “that participation in the sacramental life of the church may not be absolutely essential to salvation due to God’s prevenient grace” (p. 27). Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Reviews, Spirituality, Theology

Review: Christianity without the Cross


Christianity Without the Cross

Christianity without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecostalism, by Thomas A. Fudge. Parkland, FL: Universal Publishers, 2003.

The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) is well-known for asserting that “the Bible standard of full salvation” requires, in addition to faith, two further acts: 1) baptism in water by immersion using a particular formula — “in the name of Jesus Christ,” rather than using a Trinitarian formula; and 2) speaking with other tongues, as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some observers label the UPCI a “cult,” Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews, Theology