Tag Archives: Sanctification

Prominent Novelist Sven Lidman Shocked Sweden in 1921 by Converting to Pentecostalism

Lidman1This Week in AG History — March 12, 1927

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 March 2020

When Sven Lidman (1882-1960), one of Sweden’s most prominent authors, accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized at the leading Pentecostal church in Stockholm in 1921, it seemed as though the entire nation took notice.

Sven Lidman (pronounced Leed’man) was born into great privilege. He received a classical education and he earned a law degree from the University of Uppsala. He spent several years in the military and then studied the Italian language and literature. By 1920, he was an acclaimed author and had published 13 books and collections of poetry.

Lidman was a renaissance man. His writing explored family issues and sexuality, philosophy and ethics, and religion and politics. He cultivated relationships with the leaders of his day, and his early life was steeped in worldly pleasures.

Despite Lidman’s background, his conversion to Christ was not entirely unexpected. For years, he had experienced a deep spiritual struggle. He felt deep inner longings that could not be satisfied with brandy, tobacco, and women. He openly shared this struggle through his pen, most notably by authoring in 1920 an annotated translation of St. Augustine’s Confessions. Lidman closely identified with this fifth-century-Christian theologian who abandoned a life of youthful sin and who used his testimony to proclaim the transformative power of the gospel. Lidman soon followed in Augustine’s footsteps.

However, it came as a shock to many that Lidman cast his lot with the Pentecostals. Lidman could have easily joined a respectable Lutheran congregation of the State Church of Sweden. Instead, Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus baptized him at the Filadelfia Church.

Lidman’s conversion was widely covered by the nation’s press and became an ongoing topic of conversation at dinner tables across Scandinavia. The Christian press in other corners of the world also trumpeted this news.

Why did Lidman join the Pentecostals? Lidman’s conversion to Pentecostalism, according to a March 12, 1927, Pentecostal Evangel article, occurred because “Lidman is no half-way man.” Lidman would not settle for anything less than genuine, historic, biblical Christianity. “He believes in the power of Christ’s blood and redeeming death to save from sin,” the article continued. “He believes in a whole dedication to the Christian witness.”

Lidman rejected the notion that his conversion consisted merely of “a series of processes in the subconscious.” Rather, he maintained that “real conversion” to Christ was “the consequence of meeting with a supernatural power.” True Christians who have encountered and submitted to God’s power, Lidman wrote, are living sacrifices. “It is only upon the whole offering on the Lord’s altar that His fire falls,” he declared.

Lidman illustrated this theology of full consecration with his own testimony. At first, Lidman was not willing to surrender all of his ways to God. Early in his Christian life he defended his use of brandy and tobacco. But he recounted how his mind changed after an encounter with a man who had suffered the ravages of alcoholism. He realized he could not calmly stand before an alcoholic and say, “Drinking is an adiaphoron, a matter of indifference, and not a sin per se.” He could no longer in good conscience say, “There are many splendid and real Christians who are not abstainers.” Lidman came to believe that saving faith should permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life. Lidman submitted his destructive habits to God, and God took away his desire for alcohol and tobacco.

Although Lidman was an intellectual, he grew disenchanted with certain intellectual fads of his day. He had the independence of mind to challenge prevailing cultural assumptions and instead wanted something real. And reality, for Lidman, was the living Christian faith that he found in the Pentecostal church. The Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit, he wrote, “is a full-blooded reality and no pale intellectual ideal.”

Filadelfia Church pastor Lewi Pethrus asked Lidman to become editor of the leading Pentecostal magazine, Evangelii Härold. Lidman accepted and served in that position from 1922 until 1948. Lidman became a popular Pentecostal preacher, and countless people accepted Christ through his voluminous writings. Lidman became the second best-known Pentecostal in Sweden, after Lewi Pethrus.

The article concluded by noting that Lidman encouraged both education and heartfelt faith. While some “rationalists” and “revivalists” seemed to believe that faith and understanding are mutually exclusive, Lidman asserted that Christians need both.

“I know not how the forces of cold and darkness can ever be driven from the heart save through revival Christianity. They can never be cultivated away,” he wrote. “But after revival has gone ahead with its spring break-up of ice and frost the work of education begins.” According to Lidman, education is a work of the Spirit.

Sven Lidman’s profound influence on Swedish Pentecostalism may have faded from the memory of many American Pentecostals, but his testimony and writings continue to challenge readers to seek the fullness of God. Lidman had the world but found it wanting. Like Augustine before him, the Swedish novelist and intellectual found that only Jesus could satisfy his deepest longings.

Read the article, “The Witness of a Swedish Novelist,” on pages 4 and 5 of the March 12, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Reminiscences of a Faith Life,” by Marie Burgess Brown

* “African or Scriptural Brick,” by Arthur S. Berg

* “The Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

And many more!

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
Website: iFPHC.org

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Prominent Novelist Sven Lidman Shocked Sweden by 1921 Conversion to Pentecostalism

Lidman_728
This Week in AG History–March 12, 1927
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 12 March 2015

When Sven Lidman (1882-1960), one of Sweden’s most prominent authors, accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized at the leading Pentecostal church in Stockholm in 1921, it seemed as though the entire nation took notice.

Lidman was born into great privilege. He received a classical education and he earned a law degree from the University of Uppsala. He spent several years in the military and then studied the Italian language and literature. By 1920, he was an acclaimed author and had published 13 books and collections of poetry.

In fact, Lidman could have been considered a renaissance man. His writing explored family issues and sexuality, philosophy and ethics, and religion and politics. He cultivated relationships with the leaders of his day, and his early life was steeped in worldly pleasures.

Despite Lidman’s background, his conversion to Christ was not entirely unexpected. For years, he had experienced a deep spiritual struggle. He felt deep inner longings that could not be satisfied with brandy, tobacco, and women. He openly shared this struggle through his pen, most notably by authoring in 1920 an annotated translation of St. Augustine’s Confessions . Lidman closely identified with this fifth century Christian theologian who abandoned a life of youthful sin and who used his testimony to proclaim the transformative power of the Gospel. Lidman would soon follow in Augustine’s footsteps.

However, it came as a shock to many that Lidman cast his lot with the Pentecostals. Lidman could have easily joined a respectable Lutheran congregation of the State Church of Sweden. Instead, Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus baptized him at the Filadelfia Church.

Lidman’s conversion was widely covered by the nation’s press and became an ongoing topic of conversation at dinner tables across Scandinavia. The Christian press in other corners of the world also trumpeted this news.

Why did Lidman join the Pentecostals? Lidman’s conversion to Pentecostalism, according to a March 12, 1927, Pentecostal Evangel article, occurred because “Lidman is no half-way man.” Lidman would not settle for anything less than genuine, historic, biblical Christianity. “He believes in the power of Christ’s blood and redeeming death to save from sin,” the article continued. “He believes in a whole dedication to the Christian witness.”

Lidman rejected the notion that his conversion consisted merely of “a series of processes in the subconscious.” Rather, he maintained that “real conversion” to Christ was “the consequence of meeting with a supernatural power.” True Christians who have encountered and submitted to God’s power, Lidman wrote, are living sacrifices. “It is only upon the whole offering on the Lord’s altar that His fire falls,” he declared.

Lidman illustrated this theology of full consecration with his own testimony. At first, Lidman was not willing to surrender all of his ways to God. Early in his Christian life he defended his use of brandy and tobacco. But he recounted how his mind changed after an encounter with a man who had suffered the ravages of alcoholism. He realized he could not calmly stand before an alcoholic and say, “Drinking is an adiaphoron, a matter of indifference, and not a sin per se.” He could no longer in good conscience say, “There are many splendid and real Christians who are not abstainers.” Lidman came to believe that saving faith should permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life. Lidman submitted his destructive habits to God, and God took away his desire for alcohol and tobacco.

Although Lidman was an intellectual, he grew disenchanted with certain intellectual fads of his day. He had the independence of mind to challenge prevailing cultural assumptions and instead wanted something real. And reality, for Lidman, was the living Christian faith that he found in the Pentecostal church. The Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit, he wrote, “is a full-blooded reality and no pale intellectual ideal.”

Lewi Pethrus asked Lidman to become editor of the leading Pentecostal magazine, Evangelii Härold . Lidman accepted and served in that position from 1922 until 1948. Lidman became a popular Pentecostal preacher, and countless people accepted Christ through his voluminous writings. Lidman became the second best-known Pentecostal in Sweden, after Lewi Pethrus.

The article concluded by noting that Lidman encouraged both education and heartfelt faith. While some “rationalists” and “revivalists” seemed to believe that faith and understanding are mutually exclusive, Lidman asserted that Christians need both. “I know not how the forces of cold and darkness can ever be driven from the heart save through revival Christianity. They can never be cultivated away,” he wrote. “But after revival has gone ahead with its spring break-up of ice and frost the work of education begins.” According to Lidman, education is a work of the Spirit.

Sven Lidman’s profound influence on Swedish Pentecostalism may have faded from the memory of many American Pentecostals, but his testimony and writings continue to challenge readers to seek the fullness of God. Lidman had the world but found it wanting. Like Augustine before him, the Swedish novelist and intellectual found that only Jesus could satisfy his deepest longings.

Read the article, “The Witness of a Swedish Novelist,” on pages 4 and 5 of the March 12, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Reminiscences of a Faith Life,” by Marie Burgess Brown

* “African or Scriptural Brick,” by Arthur S. Berg

* “The Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Review: Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada

Streams of Grace: A History of the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada, by Linda Wegner. Edmonton, AB: New Leaf Works, 2006.

The Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada (ACOP) is possibly unique in North America. With roots in the early twentieth-century Pentecostal revival, the ACOP holds to the doctrine of eternal security and has transitioned in recent decades from identification with the Oneness movement to a Trinitarian understanding of the godhead. The ACOP ties with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador as the second-largest Pentecostal denomination in Canada, each with approximately 26,000 adherents. The largest, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, claimed 233,400 adherents in 2008.

Linda Wegner’s history of the ACOP, Streams of Grace, traces the intriguing history of this church. Frank Small, a leading Canadian Pentecostal pioneer, and ten others who had withdrawn from the infant Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), in 1921 received a Dominion charter to form the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada. Small and the ACOP held to a Oneness position, while the PAOC (which affiliated with the Assemblies of God in the U.S.) was Trinitarian. Both the PAOC and the ACOP embraced William Durham’s Baptistic “Finished Work” doctrine, which stated that sanctification is a progressive work in the life of a believer (as opposed to the Wesleyan belief that perfection is possible following a crisis experience of sanctification). However, the ACOP extended Durham’s Baptistic theology from sanctification to soteriology, holding to a position of eternal security. This Calvinistic position was very rare among early Pentecostals in the U.S. The only other major early U.S. Pentecostal group to teach eternal security was an informal network of churches best known by the name of their periodical, Grace and Glory, published in Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1953, another Canadian group, the Evangelical Churches of Pentecost (ECP), merged into the ACOP. The ECP was organized in 1927 as Full Gospel Missions. Full Gospel Missions, like the ACOP, preferred that baptism be administered using the formula “in the name of Jesus” instead of using the Trinitarian “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Unlike in the ACOP, many Full Gospel Missions ministers did not reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Full Gospel Missions identified its position as “Tri-unity of the godhead” as opposed to Oneness. Both groups embraced a Calvinist perspective. Interestingly, a number of ECP ministers, most notably Ern Baxter, were amillenial.

Following the 1953 merger of the ECP into the ACOP, the ACOP tolerated Oneness and Trinitarian (Tri-unity) positions on the godhead. Over time, the Trinitarian position became dominant within the ACOP and, within the last decade, the ACOP has officially declared itself to be Trinitarian by joining the Pentecostal World Fellowship and the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America, two organizations with Trinitarian statements of faith.

Wegner highlights the lives and testimonies of the ACOP’s pioneers and recounts the events and theological debates surrounding the development of the ACOP and the ECP. Streams of Grace is an important volume, providing a much-needed update to Robert Larden’s 1971 history of the ACOP, Our Apostolic Heritage. Streams of Grace is essential to understanding how the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada arrived where it is on the pilgrimage of faith. This book will be warmly received by those who lived the history and belongs in the library of every Bible college and seminary.

Reviewed by Darrin J. Rodgers

Softcover, 350 pages, illustrated. Cost: $20.00 plus shipping. Order online from the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada. For more information, contact the ACOP International Office #119 – 2340 Pegasus Way NE,  Calgary, Alberta, Canada  T2E 8M5.

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Review: This River Must Flow, by William I. Evans

Evans

The collection of W. I. Evans’ classic spiritual messages, This River Must Flow, is now available from Gospel Publishing House as a digital download! Click here to download the book now for $4.99.

W. I. Evans was the long-time Dean at Central Bible Institute (now Central Bible College) in Springfield, Missouri. He is remembered as a great man of prayer and a powerful Bible teacher. See his full-page obituary in the June 13, 1954 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel (page 4) by clicking here.

This River Must Flow, published by GPH shortly after Evans’ death in 1954, has long been treasured by Pentecostals for its spiritual insight. Topics in the volume include: Sanctification and the Holy Spirit, Ministry Gifts, Speaking in Tongues, Diversities of Operation, The Exercise of Spiritual Gifts, Prayer Must Have Priority, and Had I But One Hour to Live.

Gary Flokstra of 4 the World Resources Distributors, one of the largest Pentecostal used book dealers in the United States, says that he sold seven copies of This River Must Flow this year alone, for an average price of $20. He can’t keep the book in stock. “If I had another 15 copies, I’d probably sell them right away.”

After Billye Brim and Gloria Copeland recommended This River Must Flow on the Believer’s Voice of Victory television program on November 9, viewers began to inundate Gospel Publishing House and the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (the archives of the Assemblies of God) with requests for the book.

In response to the demand for this spiritual classic, GPH re-released This River Must Flow as a digital download this morning.

Additional writings by Evans are accessible for free on the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website: www.iFPHC.org  To view the list of articles from the Home page, under the Research Menu choose Digital Publications Search, then Index Search. Then enter William I. Evans in the Author box under the Periodical Advanced Search section and hit Search. Fifty articles by Evans are accessible. See how Evans’ anointed writings continue to challenge Christians in their spiritual life today. The sacred writings from our Pentecostal past are important because they challenge some of our present-day assumptions. The anointing survives the grave!

Posted by Darrin J. Rodgers

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Review: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South

The Fire Spreads

The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South, by Randall J. Stephens. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

Pentecostalism as Regional and Trans-Regional Religion

In 1906, a holiness preacher named G. B. Cashwell attended an interracial revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Convinced of William J. Seymour’s message of sanctification, the young and energetic southern preacher returned to his home in North Carolina and introduced black and white men and women to their own experience of “Pentecost” and “gifts of tongues.” Though exceptional for its high level of attendance and publicity, Cashwell’s popular revival, historian Randall J. Stephens quickly points out, was no accident, for the simple reason that the “roots of pentecostalism and holiness” had already reached deep into the fertile religious soil of southern culture during the nineteenth century (p. 7). The Fire Spreads tells the story of the process by which Wesleyan doctrines of holiness filtered through the Mason-Dixon Line and made it possible for many southerners to reject mainline Protestant denominationalism and embrace “the ecstatic new movement” of pentecostalism (p. 11). Issues of race, class, gender, and politics come into focus as Stephens eloquently, entertainingly, and engagingly situates the development of pentecostalism within the regional context of the American South from the nineteenth century to the present.

Stephens begins The Fire Spreads with an admission that the American South was not the birthplace of holiness and pentecostalism, despite the fact that today over fifty different pentecostal groups base their headquarters in the region. The basic purpose of the book, therefore, is to explain how an upstart evangelical sect imported from the North could become one of the most influential and pervasive forms of Protestantism in the contemporary South. In his introduction, Stephens carefully describes the basic tenets of holiness and early pentecostalism, which included conversion and salvation, entire sanctification, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and premillennialism. He also stresses the “conflict, dissent, and antagonism [that] marked both early movements,” due in large part to their association with perfectionist revivals in the North, interracial revivals in the West, and the first holiness adherents in the South, who Stephens describes as “anonymous zealots on the cultural fringes of society” (pp. 7, 4).

Chapter 1, “Angels from the North,” describes how the “intersectional and interdenominational” contours of the Second Great Awakening generated opposition to a prevalent strain of Calvinism in the South that “maintained a pessimism about humankind that seriously inhibited perfectionism” (pp. 18, 25). This sort of hyper-Calvinism, according to Stephens, existed largely because of the commitment of white southerners to slavery and a rigid code of honor. Not surprisingly, Continue reading

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Review: Women in the Church of God in Christ

Women in the Church of God in Christ

Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World, by Anthea D. Butler. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

We have all heard the saying “behind every great man is a great woman,” but within the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in the early twentieth century, the great women did more than just stand behind the men. They carved out leadership positions alongside the men, often surpassing the “brothers” in education, prominence, and spiritual and temporal authority. In doing the “women’s work” under the separate structure of the “Women’s Department,” female leaders created a powerful space for themselves. Anthea Butler’s book, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World, expertly presents the tales of these leaders between 1911 and 1964.

These narratives are pieced together from information gathered digging through many “musty closets and bedrooms,” where much of the denomination’s historical documentation remains, waiting to be discovered by scholars or thrown out by careless relatives. Butler rescues denominational pamphlets and books, newspaper articles, meeting minutes, tape recordings, photos, and other textual relics which prove invaluable in illuminating the role of women in COGIC. She supplements this data with interviews of elderly church members who were often able to thicken the descriptions of various historical events. The resultant narrative highlights the ways in which COGIC women strategically used their beliefs and their role as “mothers” to empower themselves within the denomination, and eventually outside of it.

Key to Butler’s understanding of COGIC women is an “emphasis on how belief–in this case, belief in sanctification–acted as the impetus for what church mothers actually accomplished” (p. 4). This approach takes issue with other treatments that have suggested that practices like sanctification led to a disengaged and otherworldly stance on social issues. Quite the opposite happened with the second generation of COGIC leadership, among whom Butler sees the focus on sanctification leading to social engagement on issues like education, politics, and civic interaction. Here Butler hopes to push beyond an earlier analysis of sanctified women offered by Cheryl Townsend Gilkes by suggesting that, through their religious beliefs and world view, “it was COGIC women themselves who shaped the denomination’s engagement with the community … through their alliances outside the denomination” (p. 119). Continue reading

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