Tag Archives: Soteriology

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

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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: 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


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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

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