Tag Archives: Trinity

Should Pentecostals Reject the Doctrine of the Trinity?

Ernest S. Williams

Ernest S. Williams

This Week in AG History — October 18, 1927

By William Molenaar
Originally published on PE-News, 15 October 2015

Should Pentecostals reject the doctrine of the Trinity? This question — initially called the “New Issue” — divided early Pentecostals and compelled the young Assemblies of God in 1916 to adopt the Statement of Fundamental Truths, which affirmed Trinitarian orthodoxy.

“New Issue” advocates left the Assemblies of God and other Trinitarian Pentecostal churches and coalesced into their own organizations, which became known as the Oneness movement.

Ernest S. Williams, 34-year-old pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Assembly (Newark, New Jersey), wrote an article defending the Trinitarian view of the godhead in the October 18, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. The Oneness movement, apparently, continued to be a point of theological concern.

Williams began the article by demonstrating what he believed to be the faulty logic of the Oneness position. He noted that, according to Scripture, God gave Jesus “a name that was above every name” (Philippians 2:9). Trinitarians interpret this to mean that God the Father gave Jesus a name that is above every name. Williams noted that Oneness advocates have difficulty explaining how this verse could be consistent with their belief that Jesus is God the Father. According to Oneness theology, “God” (Jesus) would have given Jesus the name above all other names. Williams pointed out that one would “conclude that there are two Lord Jesus Christs; one an intelligent Giver, and the other an intelligent Receiver.” He humorously noted, “Thus their own logic would cut their own heads off, since they teach only one personality in the Godhead.”

Williams proceeded to explain the logic of biblically grounded Trinitarian theology, appealing to Scripture, reason, and church history.

What became of the young pastor who carefully taught theology in the pages of the Pentecostal Evangel? E. S. Williams went on to serve as a leading Pentecostal systematic theologian and general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (1929-1949).

Read the article by E. S. Williams, “The Godhead,” on page 4 of the Oct. 18, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in the issue:

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

• “Jesus, the Heart of God,” by A. P. Collins

• “The Great Western Camp Meeting at Los Angeles, Cal.,” by T. Anderson

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

1 Comment

Filed under History, Theology

The Open Bible Council


This Week in AG History–June 24, 1916
By William Molenaar

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 23 Jun 2014 – 3:13 PM CST.

In the early days of the modern Pentecostal movement, controversies raged over the nature of tongues, sanctification, water baptism, and the Trinity. Many local churches and pastors operated independently, with little accountability, and did what was right in their own eyes. The Assemblies of God was formed in 1914 in part to bring unity, stability, and accountability to churches within the Pentecostal movement. However, the first General Council decided not to create a binding statement of faith.

The emerging Oneness movement (also called the “New Issue”) forced the Assemblies of God to reconsider its decision to be non-creedal. Advocates of the New Issue were teaching that believers must be baptized in the name of Jesus based on the narrative of Acts, rather than using the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” They further rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and understood the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit not as persons of the godhead, but rather as different manifestations of the one personal God. As a result, some Oneness believers asserted that no distinctions existed between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The young Assemblies of God was compelled to define its doctrine and to create organizational mechanisms to ensure accountability. Chairman J. W. Welch, in the June 24, 1916, editorial of theWeekly Evangel, issued a call to ministers to attend a third General Council of Assemblies of God. Welch desired unity and decried the strife and contentions among Pentecostals. He pointed out the need for “scriptural unity, order and government in the church.” Welch referred to the council as “an OPEN BIBLE council,” asking that those who attend to base their decisions squarely on the Bible.

Welch reassured readers that the meeting would not seek to create a sect or denomination. Doctrinal confusion was at hand, and he pleaded with those attending the next General Council to strive for unity and harmony, while discerning what is truth and what is error according to the Word of God. What resulted? The 1916 General Council adopted the Statement of Fundamental Truths.

Read the entire editorial by J. W. Welch on pages 3 and 7 of the June 24, 1916, issue of theWeekly Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Christians in India Are Given ‘Gift of Tongues,'” by William T. Ellis.

* “Some Good Things to Remember,” by Mrs. P. M. (Agnes Ozman) LaBerge.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Church, Theology

D. W. Kerr on the Bible

P0138_Kerr

This Week in AG History — December 16, 1916

By William Molenaar
Originally published on AG-News, Mon, 16 Dec 2013 – 5:21 PM CST

In 1916, the fourth General Council of the Assemblies of God approved the Statement of Fundamental Truths. Later that year, the Pentecostal Evangel published a series of articles by D. W. Kerr, who was the primary author of the statement. The first installment in the series, published in the December 16, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, pertained to the nature of the Bible itself. Kerr stated, “The Bible is the written word of God. Holy men, whom God had made ready, spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

Pentecostals and other orthodox Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God — the infallible and authoritative rule for faith and conduct. Authentic Pentecostal spirituality is guided by biblical teaching. There was a common saying amongst Pentecostals: “If we have the Word without the Spirit, we dry up. If we have the Spirit without the Word, we blow up. If we have both the Word and the Spirit, we grow up.”

When faced with the Oneness controversy (which denied Trinitarian understanding of the godhead), the Assemblies of God adopted the Statement of Fundamental Truths, which affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity as being biblically grounded.

Nevertheless, Kerr admitted, “The Bible has in it many things very plain and simple and easy to understand. But there are some things of which the written word of God speaks, which are, and always will be too deep and high for us to understand.”

Kerr continued, “The Bible does not tell us how there can be a Father, a Son, and a Holy Ghost, who always was, is now and ever shall be, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Bible tells us that these things are facts without beginning and without end; but it does not tell us how these facts can be.”

Also featured in this issue:

* ” ‘I Fell in Love with the Nazarene.’ The Birth of a Wonderful Sacred Song,” by Sarah Haggard Payne.

* “The Pearl Divers. A Parable of Missionary Work,” by Alice E. Luce.

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

3 Comments

Filed under Bible, Theology

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: 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews, Theology

Review: Maine Pentecostal history

Prevailing Westerlies

Prevailing Westerlies (The Pentecostal Heritage of Maine): The Story of How the Pentecostal Fire Spread from Topeka, Kansas to Houston — to Los Angeles — to Bangor, Maine, written by James E. Peters, researched by Patricia Pickard. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1988.

Prevailing Westerlies documents the early history of the Pentecostal movement in Maine. This 604-page book features hundreds of photographs, as well as accounts of Holy Ghost meetings and supernatural movings of God in tents, downtown missions, Bible schools, and street meetings in New England.

Read about firebrands preaching until the rafters rang. During one tent meeting, rain came down in buckets and water poured into the tent. One sister hollered, “Look out for my piano!” Pa Sweeney kept right on preaching and said, “It ain’t pianos we want to save—it is souls!” It will light a fire in your bones for the renewed move of God in your own life.

Prevailing Westerlies, importantly, recounts the breadth of the early Pentecostal revivals, which crossed the various divides. Stories about early believers — Trinitarian and Oneness, Assemblies of God and independent, male and female — are all included. Years of research yielded previously unpublished information about significant early Pentecostal leaders such as Mattie Crawford, Aimee Semple McPherson, the Crabtree family, and a host of others. This volume includes 34 interviews with people who recounted the early Pentecostal fire which entered Maine in 1907 and spread throughout the area. Includes comprehensive index.

The author, James Peters, served as pastor of Glad Tidings Church (Bangor, Maine), which was founded by Rev. Clifford A. Crabtree and the Davis Sisters. Patricia Pickard, who did the research for this volume, is former archivist for Zion Bible College (Haverhill, Massachusetts) and has authored numerous historical books and articles about New England and the Pentecostal movement.

Softcover, 604 pages, illustrated. $15 postpaid to U.S. addresses. Order from: Patricia Pickard, 144 Poplar Street, Bangor, ME 04401 (email: primrose301@msn.com)

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Review: The Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy


Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy

The Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy, edited by Harold D. Hunter and Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2006.

The Azusa Street Centennial (Los Angeles, 2006) brought together approximately 45,000 Pentecostal pilgrims who traveled from all corners of the globe to celebrate, worship and reflect on the paths that led them to where they are in their spiritual journeys. Right in the heart of the celebration, historians gathered in an academic track where they presented a series of papers highlighting the most up-to-date scholarship on the history and legacy of the Azusa Street revival. Two leading Pentecostal historians, Harold D. Hunter and Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., assembled the majority of these papers, now available in The Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, Reviews