In previous articles, we considered the theological arguments concerning the nature of the gift of tongues and the historical witness of the church concerning this gift. In this article, we will take a look at some of the historical factors which led up to the Pentecostal Movement in order to understand our current time. How did this movement come about? What was its development and the factors that led to its emergence?
The Pentecostal and broader Charismatic Movement have had a huge impact on global Christianity. The major theological distinctive of Pentecostalism from the earliest beginnings has been a concern for an experience called the 'baptism in the Holy Spirit' accompanied by speaking in tongues and other spiritual gifts to empower the Christian for witness and sanctified living. This particular understanding of the doctrine of Spirit baptism with tongues emerged alongside the rise of Pentecostalism. To understand any movement it is important to understand its roots and the circumstances out of which it arose.
I pray that this final article in this series would be helpful for both people in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movements and those who are not to understand a little more of its roots and why it takes the form it does today.
No movement happens in isolation—but usually rises out of a complex of factors and reactions to surrounding conditions. I will briefly trace how charismatic manifestations were viewed in earlier history until the Reformation, then focus on events around the Great Awakening and rise of Methodism which led to the Holiness movement and finally how these events set the stage for the emergence of Pentecostalism. Finally I will look at the beginnings of the movement and where it's roots lay at the founders—focusing primarily on Charles F. Parham and William J. Seymour.
There is a trend of historical isolation in churches, especially in evangelical traditions—separating from what has been the historical teachings handed down faithfully to the "church of what's happening now"—disjointed from the testimony and teaching of history. It is one of the unfortunate pitfalls of the evangelical movement that we don't teach much Church history, and for the most part those within it are largely unaware of their theological and historical roots.
In order to try to give as fair an assessment of the history, I have cited all of my sources, many of which are Pentecostal and Charismatics sources for those who would like to verify them. Though obviously every historiography will interpret events via some sort of lens to give meaning and draw out a point from the events, I do try to avoid unnecessary biases which may creep in using only one-sided sources. I have tried, where possible, to make the points I draw from this historiography from internal Pentecostal as well as primary sources, as opposed to only strictly from outside or critical sources. In this regard—though possibly not perfectly—I have endeavoured to write a fair assessment of the history from the sources available to me.
Other Approaches to a Pentecostal Historiography
Some treatments by apologists for Pentecostalism have over-romanticized the origins of the movement's history, but looking at accounts offer significant insight. Some trace the Pentecostal roots back to the Wesleyan-holiness movement and exclude the Reformed traditions. However, others argue that there were already independent streams of Reformed theology in the movement's roots. David du Plessis, argues against the human origins of the movement and refers to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement as "creations of the Spirit of God, not an evolution of some revival somewhere" and that "God is doing something in our generation that has no equal anywhere in all the revivals in history."
Another historiographical vein argues for William J. Seymour as the originator of Pentecostalism over the traditional view of Charles Parham—with good reason as we shall see later.
However, this thesis suffers from the inability to support this kind of redefinition of Pentecostalism. Also, while some have argued for outbreaks of glossolalia (tongues) prior to Parham, they in no case can provide a historical antecedent to Parham's contention of Holy Spirit baptism being evidenced by tongues. However, studies have corrected prior obscuring of Parham as the founder of Pentecostalism and the claim that it had no human founder. Parham and what events prepared the way must be considered if one is looking to investigate the origins of Pentecostalism. Truth be told, it is not a linear issue but rather covers a multiplicity of facets which compile a more complete overall view. What is to be sure though, is that to ascertain a history of the roots of the movement, one cannot overlook Parham as a key figure, followed closely by Seymour.
The Testimony of the Early Church
As we look at earlier history, "what strikes us is the relative infrequency of glossolalia. What also strikes us is that the groups among whom tongue-speaking occurred were minority groups, often under persecution." It is very hard to trace a consistent historical line for Pentecostal phenomena further back than the Great Awakening. Many Church Fathers such as Athanasius, John Chrysostom and even Augustine clearly testify to the disappearance of the charismata and specifically tongues.
We have already mentioned Montanism in a previous article as the only early testimony of glossolalia close to the apostolic age, however that was shown to be a heretical movement. A commonly quoted early church figure is Tertullian (ca. 160-220 AD), who mentions tongues in his book "Against Marcion" and "A Treatise on the Soul". However, it must be noted that at the time, Tertullian was a Montanist, so this can hardly be considered a good endorsement of it. Later he is reported by Augustine to have left the Montanists, possibly having become disenchanted with the excess of the group. Also, nowhere does he mention glossolalia. He does however mention interpretation of the tongues, which could have quite arguably been languages. To assert that it was modern glossolalic tongues would be to draw an argument from silence in this case.
Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) in his "Dialogue with Trypho", is cited as saying that the gifts remain until his present time and that it is possible to see women among them who possess the gifts of the Spirit of God. However, looking at the context of what he was saying, the gifts he was referring to were those which Israel had in the Old Testament.
"[Justin] related the prophetical gifts to Solomon (spirit of wisdom), to Daniel (spirit of understanding and counsel), to Moses (spirit of might and piety), to Elijah (spirit of fear), and to Isaiah (spirit of knowledge). These gifts cannot be identified with the spiritual gifts of First Corinthians 12."
Irenaeus (130-200 AD), in his work entitled "Against Heresies" is often cited as an early testimony to tongues. There in V, 6, 1 he mentions persons who have received the Spirit of God, and who speak in all languages and who possess prophetic gifts. However, when looked at in context, it is clear that this is taken out of context. He was explaining that the terms perfect and spiritual when used by Paul do not devaluate man's body, he was not discussing the gifts which may still be present in the church at the time. Furthermore, as a direct pupil of John the Apostle, it is much more likely that Irenaeus was not referencing people of his day but rather what happened in the New Testament time to make his argument which is seen in his choice of verb tenses. The main point of his argument in this section is against the Gnostics in reference to the resurrection of the body, so this too seems to be a weak support. No where does he say that he spoke in tongues.
However, to be fair, Eusebius (c. 260-340 AD), the early church historian did seem to understand it as describing something which was currently occurring in the second century. Although we are not told whether if these were Montanists or regular church members. Eusebius in his "Church History" say:
"…a recent convert, Montanus by name …being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning. …they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon …and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets."
Celsus as quoted by Origen (185-254 AD.) is used to show the presence of tongue-speaking at that time. Origin was defending Christianity against Celsus' attacks in "Against Celsus". However, when read in its context one can clearly see that what he was referring to as "unintelligible words" was actually Celsus' opinion of Old Testament prophesies. So here this is an example of a quote out of context. Furthermore, Origen goes on to say:
"Moreover, the Holy Spirit gave signs of His presence at the beginning of Christ's ministry, and after His ascension He gave still more; but since that time these signs have diminished, although there are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls purified by the Gospel, and their actions regulated by its influence." (emphasis added)
It would seem here that even this early in Church History, the charismatic gifts were already fading away.
John Chrysostom (ca. 345-407 AD) states plainly in "Homilies on the First Epistle of Paul" to the Corinthians that there was no glossolalia in his day. He says, "This whole place is very obscure;" referencing 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, "but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place."
Carl Brumback, Stanley H. Frodsham, and John L. Sherrill all quote Augustine as laying hands on converts and expecting them to speak in tongues, all three using the exact same quotations. However, absolutely no documentation is given for the statement they quote—which is quite odd. If this is the case, it is quite a lack of thoroughness to verify its scholastic integrity. In fact, just the opposite is true as Augustine will explicitly write in his Homilies on the First Epistle of John. George Barton Cutten's "Speaking with Tongues" is often considered one of the best older histories of tongue-speaking. "His comment about the relative absence of glossolalia during the Middle Ages is quite interesting: 'It is rather surprising. . . that in this age of wonders [the medieval period] it [the gift of tongues] appeared so infrequently.'"
The early church fathers wrote to churches where the gift had been practiced in the New Testament, yet none of them attest to its existence in their time. Nothing is found in Clement's letter to the Corinthian church, nor in Ignatius' letter to Ephesus. One would think that if glossolalia or xenolalia (tongues) were widespread at the time, they would have mentioned it, especially since they covered every major New Testament doctrine in their writings. Though not an argument in itself, the silence is noteworthy, and even more so the testimonies to the contrary we have seen. What this equates to is the large majority of the early history of the church, directly after the time of the apostles and the closing of the Christian canon of scripture, as well as a majority of the period of the Middle Ages, is totally void of tongues (xenolalia) and a majority of the charismata.
Historically speaking, this is a very strong argument in favour of the Cessationist position.
Later History | Tracking the Progress of Charismatic Phenomena
If we skip ahead to the Reformation (16th century), we can begin to track some of the beginnings of what would open up the gates for later developments toward the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement. The Reformation was blessed with some of the best minds who rediscovered New Testament doctrines via the thorough search of the Scriptures. Yet none of the Reformers "found that tongue-speaking belonged to the normal gifts God has permanently bestowed on the church." However, looking at some of the minority groups which sprung up from this time period onward may be helpful in understanding how the way may have been paved for later developments.
Minority and Fringe Groups
One example of Pentecostal phenomena comes from the Anabaptists in the 16th century, who were "the so-called radical wing of the Reformation." They went against Sola Scriptura and maintained that an inner voice of the Holy Spirit trumps the word of Scripture. Their movement was accompanied in 1532 with glossolalia, healings, contortions, and mass hypnosis. However, their "alleged excesses and immoralities resulted in Luther and other Reformation leaders totally rejecting the entire Anabaptism movement." A similar accompaniment of manifestations happened among the Protestant peasants under extreme persecution from Catholics in Cévenol in France, but they were eventually wiped out.
In 1646, George Fox, of England founded a group that would come to be known as the Quakers—so named due to their emotional outbursts and trembling during their meetings. In 1731, there was an outbreak of similar phenomena among the Jansenists in France. In the latter part of the 18th century, the Shakers manifested tongues and other phenomena and emphasized a strange view of the Second Coming, insisting that Christ would come as Mother Ann Lee Stanley—the founder of their movement. Joseph Smith, who formed The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints around 1830, and Brigham Young, who led them, both claimed the gift of tongues and it is a well established doctrine in the Book of Mormon. The Mormon Church experienced much of the same phenomena. "Shouting, jerking, and dancing were common in their services," and "Mormon choirs were even known to sing songs in unknown tongues in unison."
In April 1831, a tongues movement briefly broke out in England through the ministry of Edward Irving, a Presbyterian minister who was later deposed then defrocked by the Church of Scotland. He then became a founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church. His close friend Thomas Carlyle called the exuberant services "pure bedlam". Robert Baxter a former member of the movement, after some failed prophesies, broke with the Irvingites and published a book against the fallacies of the movement. Eventually, Pietism would lend its influence as a "protest against the formalism of its day." It gave primacy to feelings, asceticism, and the role of the laity. Pietism would give birth to the Moravian missionary movement which sparked a revival that lasted a hundred years and would directly influence John Wesley who became the founder of Methodism.
These movements, though mostly on the fringes, help us to understand what seemed to be a gradual increasing openness to the charismatic gifts and manifestations in the spiritual tone of the times leading up to Pentecostalism.
John Wesley, The Advent of Methodism and the Great Awakening
John Wesley was the founder of Methodism and also the intellectual and spiritual father of what would become the Holiness and Pentecostal movements. He was an amazing man of God and contributed immensely to modern evangelicalism—there are not many others who could compare to the scope of his work for the Gospel. Wesley never spoke with tongues himself "and struggled with making sense of the charismatic gifts as he recognized their infrequency in post-apostolic centuries." His focus was not the gifts of the Spirit but rather the fruits of the Spirit. Wesley's theological background in Anglo-Catholic tradition had a strong Arminian base and was in many ways a reaction against extreme Calvinism with an emphasis on conscious religious experience.
Wesley drew from several books such as Jeremy Taylor's Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying and Thomas á Kempis's Imitation of Christ. William Law's Treatise on Christian Perfection and Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life were of particular influence on him. Wesley's pursuit of perfectionism was a major motivating factor for him, so much so that at times it seemed as if he had little or no assurance of his own salvation. Even after his conversion on May 24, 1738, it wasn't until Jan 1, 1739, where he records an experience of feeling the power of God fall upon him that he recognized it as a second work of grace in his life which is usually cited as the time of his sanctification.
Wesleyan Theology—a small root that would grow
Wesley's theology can be summed up as comprising two phases. The first is conversion and justification and the second is Christian Perfection or sanctification. However, this was not considered a sinless perfection but rather a perfection of motives and desires and would be attained instantly by the "second work of grace" and preceded and followed by continued growth in grace. This was the first time this theology formally appeared on the scene of Christian history and it had not been a part of the church for more than 1500 years prior. It would lay the framework for later development of Pentecostal doctrine. John Fletcher argued with Wesley that the second blessing was actually a "baptism in the Holy Spirit." Though Wesley disagreed with this, Fletcher was appointed head of the Methodist societies and the doctrine of Christian Perfection remained in Methodism.
The Spread of Methodism
Throughout the subsequent years in the 18th century, Methodism saw a revival happening as its doctrine and gospel proclamation spread. This was many times marked by the emotions of some exceeding control. Methodism was a reaction against the institutionalism, strictness and rigidity of what was seen as the depersonalized religion of the time towards feeling, experience, and warmth. Its appeal was almost irresistible to the poor and disinherited. The techniques of fiery preaching and emotional worship tended to appeal to the rugged frontiersmen and helped the spread of Methodism in areas where others had not had as much success.
The Cane Ridge camp in 1801 under the leadership of Barton Stone was the most famous outbreak of Pentecostal-like revival in American history. The camp meetings "included such phenomena as falling, jerking, barking like dogs, falling into trances, the 'holy laugh' and 'such wild dances'." By August 1801, crowds estimated between 10,000 to 25,000 were gathering at the meetings with many unusual phenomena happening among both the converted and unconverted including uncontrollable "jerks". Revival continued to spread to the southern states and by 1830, the frenzied atmosphere had calmed and the focus switched from religious experience to doctrine with periodical pockets of fresh revival outbreaks.
Charles G. Finney was the next to continue the revival. In 1836 he became convinced of the possibility of entire sanctification in this life. In 1837, together with Asa Mahan, president of Oberlin College, he maintained that a person could achieve Christian perfection by the exercise of the free will in cultivating 'right intentions' after conversion. His theological innovations connected the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" as the means of total sanctification and "the possibility of receiving subsequent 'fresh' receptions of the Holy Spirit." One of Finney's converts, John Humphrey Noyes, claimed he had been perfectly sanctified and he could not sin.
However, he was asked to leave Yale due to his strange beliefs. He taught that direct divine revelation was superior to the Scriptures, Christ had already returned in 70 A.D. and the concept of "complex marriage" which was a system of "sanctified promiscuity." He established utopian "Bible Communist" communities in 1836 to 1879. In 1839, Phoebe Palmer of the Allen Street Methodist Church in New York, began teaching her "shorter way" to perfection through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She encouraged those seeking to "receiving the blessing 'by faith' even if they failed to experience any emotional feelings at the moment." Shortly before the Civil War, the holiness crusade was reaching its climax, everyone was seeking perfection.
The Civil War's Impact
Out of this movement also came the drive for the abolition of slavery which was believed to be a blot on society and the church. 1858 saw the last Methodist holiness revival in the north before the Civil War which firmed up the rift between north and south. In April 1861, the end of the early holiness movement came as it failed to avoid the imperfection of war. By the end of the Civil War, Methodism had been ossified through the institutionalization of its practices to which the new rising Holiness Movement reacted against. After the War, the increasing shift from Wesleyan to Pentecostal sanctification during the late 19th century may be seen as due to the rising interest in the Holy Spirit within the confines of Holiness thought. According to Donald W. Dayton, "The next crucial development would appear to be a volume appropriately entitled The Baptism of the Holy Ghost by Asa Mahan" which was "published in 1870 by the Palmers." This was published into both Methodist and Reformed circles and "the teaching of a Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit would profoundly suffuse most branches of at least conservative revivalism."
After the war, there was a sort of moral depression as returning soldiers brought with them "battlefield ethics" and much of the traditions from the previous Methodist holiness movement were not revived. In response, the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church called for a return to Wesleyan principles. Seeking to regain ground lost, plans were made to promote and hold a camp meeting at Vineland, New Jersey on July 17 to 26 in 1868. An inter-denominational plea was issued to attend the meetings and seek a "Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost." This meeting is considered to be the beginning of the modern Holiness Movement in the United States. It would eventually result in the formation of over a hundred denominations worldwide and birth the Pentecostal movement.
The Vineland Camp Meeting sparked a total of fifty-two "national camps" and further spread the doctrine of sanctification as an instantaneous work of grace. In the 1870's to 1889's there was a flood of literature which aided the movement. Holiness revivals and all-day meetings were held for years throughout the nation by various leaders and also spread to Great Britain, Europe, Asia, Africa and India. The Holiness Movement gained much momentum and support from older ministers who saw it as a way to thwart the new threats of fashionable wear in churches, "progressive" ministers favouring German higher criticism, the infiltration of Darwinism and destructive intellectualism. They also saw it as a way to bring unification and cross denominational boarders. The holiness awakening peaked around the 1880's in America with John S. Inskip holding huge revivalistic campaigns which were supported by Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists. Many of these themes can be seen continuing into later development of Pentecostalism.
Birth of the Holiness Movement
After 1867, controversy began as a result of the independent character of the National Holiness Association. A movement of "come-outism" began with those separating themselves from the Methodist Church because of what they viewed to be its accommodating kind of Wesleyanism. The rise of new doctrines further agitated the growing controversy with the Holiness Movement. Among these new innovations were teachings of sinless perfection, freedom from death, marital purity and a third work following sanctification called "the fire", abstinence from pork and coffee, and that there is no need for doctors and drugs after one is sanctified. Some denied the need for a second blessing and taught instead a gradual sanctification and seminaries also began opposing the teaching. In 1884, theologian Wilbur F. Tillet, called the Holiness Movement teaching of sanctification "semi-pelagian." These events led to many others to critique the teaching and publish books refuting it.
The Linking of Divine Healing to the Movement
There was a significant shift in certain Holiness circles toward the end of the19th century where baptism in the Spirit became interpreted not in terms of sanctification, but as for empowerment for service. R.A. Torrey was decisively important in this shift, and through it leaders in the Holiness Movement began to assert that the gifts should still be in operation today. The divine healing movement linked to the Holiness Movement also played an important part in the emergence of Pentecostalism. In 1885, Maria Woodworth-Etter added healing to her evangelistic ministry and "her meetings [were] characterized by people who were 'slain in the Spirit'—another feature of early Pentecostalism." John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907) was a prominent healer, but was alienated from the Holiness Movement because of his outspoken criticisms. He set up a city called Zion as a 'theocracy' near Chicago and he saw healing as part of the atonement and thus reputed the need for medicine and doctors. Zion City eventually went bankrupt and Dowie died of a stroke later in disgrace.
Final Separation of the Holiness Movement
In1894 at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, a statement was issued and sealed the disavowal of the holiness movement. This resulted in the creation of numerous "holiness" denominations throughout the States, mostly in the Midwest and South, instead of forming another large unified group. In 1895, out of this split, the "Church of the Nazarene" would become the largest holiness church. In only seven years, twenty-three holiness denominations began and it was the most amount of churches formed in the nation's history in such a short time.
Frank Sandford (1862-1948) would be an important figure setting the stage for Parham. He also set up a sort of idealist community called Shiloh where residents were to give over all their possessions to purchase ships and fund their world evangelistic missions. However, he added on emphasis on spiritual warfare, and a racist theory of Anglo-Israelism which believed White Anglo-Saxons were the descendents of the lost tribes of Israel, advocating circumcision, Saturday as Sabbath and abstinence from pork. In many of these figures, an imminent premillennial return of Christ was essential to their eschatological framework and the basis of much of their ministry practice.
Dawn of Pentecostalism – Charles F. Parham
The stage was now set through the gradual sequence of events, shifts in thought and culture for the pivotal figure of Pentecostalism to come on the scene. Prior to these antecedent shaping forces, the movement would have probably never gained the traction it did. It was a culmination of all the right conditions.
Charles Fox Parham was a child of the American Frontier, where religion brought with it a degree of tolerance and helped produce the inventive nature of "religious prophets." Parham came on the scene at just the opportune time. Prior to him, Kansas had experienced a time of agricultural boom followed by a drastic collapse which shook much of the agrarian society. Thus "religion became a tremendous source of power for the powerless" and helped to find Pentecostalism a ready and enthusiastic following. The religious environment of Kansas is also important to understand since "Kansas had known their share of religious prophets." The 'Kansan ethos' tended to legislate morality with various prohibition laws instead of religion.
Parham had a rebellious attitude toward authority—he said that most schools were "dominated by back-slidden, superannuated preachers" who were "outclassed by younger men of more progressive, and in many cases, deeper spiritual truths." He suffered from numerous health issues growing up and was often assigned light household chores. As a result, "his career as a faith healer was predicated upon his own experience with the enemy of disease." Parham enrolled at Southwest Kansas College for his formal training to become a minister, however he did not complete his education due to various unfortunate events and his own lack of focus on his academics. He also tried pursuing a medical career for a more lucrative future, however, he underestimated the rigors of that path and blamed his backslidden state on the devil.
Parham's Early Ministry and Theological Development
He began radically devoting himself to preaching and eventually would quit school after three years as it interfered with his important schedule and desire to preach. He became pastor of the Eudora church in 1894 and while there, "Parham's theology had become controversial." He neglected water baptism and instead focused his congregation on spiritual baptism, failed to emphasize church membership, held to unorthodox eschatological views and believed in total annihilation instead of eternal hell for the wicked. Parham resigned from the Methodist church and described his experience at Eudora as confining him. He made for himself a ministerial vocation that would be "unhindered by human authority" since he received his orders directly from God.
Through further experiences, Parham would come to link healing with his degree of faith. Now he would do away with both medicines, doctors and even his life insurance since healing could be secured through perfected faith and began preaching his new convictions around 1898. Parham was a charismatic character and the attraction to his healing ministry was compounded by the rise of more qualified and higher paid doctors, which the poor could not afford. Parham declared, "the principle relief from medical science is pocket book relief." It was not just a mere scepticism on Parham's part, but he actually believed that taking medicine was wrong as it revealed a lack of faith in God. He related all ailments to spiritual causes and described disease demons to his audience and claimed they even ate food.
Parham later met Benjamin Hardin Irwin, who believed in the "Baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire" and had a following of fire-baptized believers already in Topeka. Their enthusiasm resonated with Parham and he soon adopted their doctrine. This new concept to Parham was particularly appealing to him since he saw it as the same as had happened to the apostles on the Day of Pentecost. From here Parham wanted a sign to validate that this was the true Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Next Parham met Frank W. Sandford who impressed him so much he enrolled in the Bible school at Shiloh in June 1900. It was after this that Parham started his own Bible school teaching particularly these new doctrines he had learned.
The Event That Changed Everything
At 27 years of age, he started his Bethel Bible College in October 1900 teaching his Gospel of the Latter Rain which he was convinced he had seen at Shiloh. The event which many cite as the defining moment in Pentecostal history occurred in December as he left his students to do a study of the Holy Spirit and the evidence of the baptism of the Spirit. To his surprise, he returned and reports that all the students had the same experience and received the gift of tongues. Agnes N. Ozman asked him to pray for her to receive the gift and after some hesitancy he prayed for her and "she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days."
After this he himself claimed to have experienced tongues and spoke in Swedish. It wasn't long before the Newspapers were running full-length articles about the strange phenomena happening and there was major excitement about what was going on. Vinson Synan, a Pentecostal historian, explains that after these events Ozman's experience would become the prototype for the millions of Pentecostals to follow later. However, "Like all such mythically cast stories, these had certain features that remain open to question."
Oops—A "Miracle" Unsubstantiated
Parham quickly attested to the tongues being legitimate and tested by outside professors of languages and Government interpreters saying, "all agreed that the students of the college were speaking in the languages of the world, and that with proper foreign accent and intonation." However, Parham consciously exaggerated the input of the students and his own accounts don't match in details. Ozman's own account of what transpired also was quite different to what Parham related. Parham and all of the early Pentecostals assumed that their tongues were xenolalia, which was an important to confirm the phenomena's authenticity.
However, Parham's claims that the tongues at his Bible college were actual languages remain unverified. Charles Shumway did some scholastic research to investigate Parham's alleged "professors of languages" and "Government interpreters," but could not find anyone who would corroborate the claims. When the writings in Chinese were also tried to be verified they turned out to be nothing more than nonsensical scribbles. By January 3, only a few days after the phenomena, one of the students—Samuel J. Riggins—told the Topeka Daily Capital, "I believe the whole of them are crazy." Following in his steps Ralph Herrill, another student also defected a week later for similar reasons.
[Picture of the "Chinese" writings the Agnes Ozman wrote.]
"Since Parham and other premillennialists believed that the eschatological 'last days' would witness a worldwide revival sparked by successful mission efforts in heathen lands, the importance of the new gift of tongues took on greater significance." This belief in the utility of tongues is what distinguished the Pentecostal movement from that of the broader holiness movement. This belief waned quickly though as it was realized that these tongues were not xenolalic and now is primarily understood as the proof of Spirit baptism.
A Downward Spiral
In the following months Parham met with great difficulties, in spite of grand claims and plans for world missions and camps, he was met with financial difficulties which he denied. On March 16 his one-year old son died, and though his students hoped that God would raise him up as a sign of apostolic restoration, this was not the case. Their venue was eventually sold, forcing them to relocate the school and many students deserted. By fall, Parham had closed the school and moved to Kansas City. In the year following, Parham moved around quite a bit, unable to regain the glory past.
Parham continued his healing ministry and travelled to Galena and Joplin, Missouri where he saw quite a bit of success and revival. He suffered a serious relapse of his health after the Joplin revival, after which he travelled to Orchard, Texas. There he saw revival break out and claimed to have been miraculously restored to health, however it was far from amazing in hindsight. Parham continued to enjoy quite a bit of momentum in his ministry and accounts of xenolalia again being reported but unsubstantiated.
"Parham's ability to draw crowds included more than curiosity about tongues and divine healings. By 1905 he had established himself as an entertaining speaker… Parham bombarded his audience with an array of interesting biblical and social topics."
Parham also passionately preached a Zionist gospel and with "an amazing mix of theology and pseudoscience, Parham spellbound his audience." He added a variety of strange extra-biblical information such as Eden being located in the Caribbean and became the lost continent of Atlantis, and that God sent the flood to destroy the "unsouled people" and those who had mingled with them.
Parham's Shameful Demise
In 1904, Nettie Smith, a 9 year old whose parents were followers of Parham, died because her parents refused medical treatment instead seeking healing through Parham's Apostolic Faith teachings. There was outcry against Parham which prompted him to move to Texas. Some months after a series of meetings in Zion, Illinois, five followers of Parham beat a disabled woman to death trying to cast out a demon of rheumatism from her in the fall of 1906. Finally, 1907 he was arrested on charges of sodomy in a hotel in San Antonio, to which it is reported he wrote a full confession in exchange for his release.
In an attempt to distract from allegations and regain his influence, he began fund-raising for an expedition to the Holy Land where he claimed to press that he would find both Noah's ark and the ark of the covenant. But he never even made it to Jerusalem, instead he made it to New York then claimed he was mugged and returned home on borrowed money. Parham also ended up a racist. He denounced whites and blacks worshipping together at the Azusa Street revivals with crude racial slurs. By 1927 he publicly praised the Ku Klux Klan and many within Pentecostal circles distanced themselves from him due to concerns over financial management and his eccentric doctrines. It is understandable why some Pentecostal histories try to exclude Parham.
William J. Seymour and the Spread of Pentecostalism
From here, a black church leader—W.J. Seymour picked up the movement which lead to Azusa Street revival which sparked rapid growth spreading to Chicago, Winnipeg and New York. Out of this movement many of the current Pentecostal churches can trace their roots such as the Assemblies of God, the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God, the United Pentecostal Church and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel among others.
"The leadership of the movement passed to William Seymour and took on international dimensions never realized in Parham's work. Perhaps because of all the hurt Seymour suffered from white Pentecostals, he later repudiated Parham's 'initial evidence' doctrine and was later himself rejected as leader by white Pentecostals, who were unable to allow a sustained role for black leadership."
The church and leadership was predominantly black and rooted in the African American culture of the nineteenth century. This is very significant as much of the early manifestations in the new born Pentecostal movement came from African American Christianity, which was also found in the religious expressions of the slaves. "These expressions were a reflection of the African religious culture from which slaves had been abducted and Seymour himself was deeply affected by black slave spirituality." During the Azusa Street revival, from "various occult societies came spiritualists and mediums to try to make their trances and séances a part of the services. The matter of discerning the spirits became a major problem." Many churches closed their doors to the message of Pentecostalism due to fear of this kind of emotionalism. However, this "hastened the formation of new denominations. Still Pentecostalism grew. It made its strongest appeal to the uneducated, economically deprived classes of society."
In only ten years from the beginning of the Azusa Street revival, "Pentecostalism had become a worldwide movement" with large communities in Europe, Asia, Africa, South and North America. "Taken as a whole, it is the fastest growing segment of the Christian community." The revivals were seen as a new Pentecost and "the early Pentecostals saw themselves on the edge of a new dispensation." They believed that "something had gone wrong with the church after the 'original fire from heaven' on the Day of Pentecost, and that Christianity had degenerated or had 'lapsed into writing meticulous creeds and inventing lifeless rituals'." Pentecostals believed their movement to be the "latter rain" promised in Joel. Which is curious as it implies the assumption that for the greater part of 1900 years of church history, Christendom as a whole had been without this 'new power'.
Pentecostalism experienced doctrinal problems within due to "the emphasis on personal experience, new revelations and scriptural insights were commonplace." For the most part the early leaders of Pentecostalism were simple, unlearned men with no knowledge or interest in the intricacies of church history. Still a direct line of influence can be traced from the German Pietists through the Moravian Brethren to Wesley, and from Wesley through the Holiness movement to Pentecostalism. Charismatic manifestations in these movements can be compared with those in Pentecostalism. The movement undoubtedly drew a lot of strength from the poor and working class, though this is by no means universally true or the only social group involved. Sociological explanations address some but not all questions of origin and "the matter of religious motivation cannot be reduced to simple sociological models. In the end, what seemed sheer nonsense to some became and abiding assurance to others."
Despite the schisms and internal problems, Pentecostalism grew at a rapid rate due to its focus on evangelism and outreach ministries. From 1926 to 1937, The Church of God grew from 23,000 to 80,000. In the same period The Assemblies of God grew from 48,000 to 175,000 in the space of 11 years. By 1950 they were at 318,478, by 1960 they had exploded to 508,602, and in 1983 their membership was at 1,788,394 and in only 3 more years they would estimate over 2,135,104 affiliated with the denomination. The global expansion of Pentecostalism has been nothing short of an explosion—which is why questions of its doctrines is no small matter. The implications are far reaching and wide.
The Good, The Bad and The Hopeful
However, it is important also to note the differences which developed within Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement so as to not paint with too broad a brush. In the beginning of the movement by Parham it was taught that entire sanctification was necessary as a prerequisite to the baptism of the Spirit as a "second work of grace". This has changed in recent times, with the majority of Pentecostal churches teaching that sanctification is an ongoing process that continues throughout a person's life, even after receiving the baptism of the Spirit. As such the movement has seen quite a bit of evolution, refinement and reform in its doctrine in recent years—especially as more and more Pentecostals pick up Biblical scholarship. The movement as a whole is still pretty young and arguably still in its developing stages.
Historically, Pentecostals have a lot of strength to their movement. It is able to become indigenous to whatever cultural context it finds itself, creating a local expression of worship which reflects the background of the people. It is not tied financially or institutionally which allows for a lot more freedom. (Though these can also become its weakness in some instances.) They are aggressively proactive in evangelism and taking the church to the world with a message that is easily understandable and experienced. They seek to minister to the least of these, praying for the sick and seeking to institute various social justice causes. They provide warm Christian community to assimilate new members and encourage laypeople to witness and become involved through various church programs. They encourage lively worship and the use of musical talents as well as active participation.
"The themes expressed in Pentecostal meetings—radical conversion, sanctification or holiness in daily living, divine healing from all sickness, and the pre-millennial rapture of the 'Bride of Christ'—all contained a release within the individual's religious psyche which portrayed a future release from the problems faced in the here and now. More importantly, they provided comfort in this life in dealing with disappointments and fears."
The movement has caused a certain 'consciousness raising,' and challenges the church to perhaps to "expect a little more divine intervention than customary wisdom allows. Nevertheless, a few cautions must be articulated." We should realize that many of the doctrines which define the movement such as glossolalic tongues and the Baptism of the Spirit are fairly recent interpretations and should be approached with caution. It is suspicious when a doctrine has not been affirmed by the vast majority of church history.
Furthermore, the foundations of the movements in Parham and the Azusa Street Revival do not make for the most pristine roots. To have a movement started with such gross scandal and theological errors should at the very least make us cautious of too readily accepting its teachings without properly perceiving its roots, inherent weaknesses and theological flaws. We have seen in the progression from Wesley to present how small theological compromises can grow into much larger problems if left unchecked. Out of this movement has come many very unfortunate other off-shoots from a bad theological base such as the Word of Faith movement, the Prosperity Gospel, Dominion Theology and numerous other perversions and departures from the truth of the Scriptures. However, many earnest Pentecostals and Charismatics would distance themselves from these 'excess' branches of the movement, and it would be unfair to lump them all together without distinction. However, this has sadly often been a gateway to these other deviations and something which needs to be addressed since numerically these 'excess' branches actually make up the majority of the Charismatic world.
I am not attempting to vilify the movement only at its worst—thinking somehow that prolonged recitation of evils justifies us to dismiss it wholesale without weighing fairly the benefits that it has brought to the church. My concern here though has been to expose the errors and history out of a genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of fellow Christians. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." We should be discerning to root out the errors of the movement and correct it where it has gone amiss. We should also be thankful for the genuine works of God's grace within it.
I therefore encourage and lovingly exhort my brothers and sisters who are in the movement to seriously consider what has been presented here for themselves to respond wisely and perhaps examine what they may have uncritically taken for granted. As Christians who claim to follow the truth—let us endeavour all the more to thoroughly know, submit ourselves to, and walk in that truth.
ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES
The History of Pentecostalism | How was this movement birthed?
Anderson, Allan. An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Brumback, Carl. A Sound From Heaven. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1977.
Carson, D.A. Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987.
Culpepper, Robert H. Evaluating the Charismatic Movement: A Theological and Biblical Appraisal. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1977.
Dayton, Donald W. Theological Roots of Pentecostalism. Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury, 1987.
Gee, Donald. Wind and Flame. No pages. Online: http://www.revival- library.org/catalogues/pentecostal/gee.html
Goff, James R. Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.
Hoekema, Anthony A. What About Tongue-Speaking? Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966.
Kay, William K., and Anne E Dyer. Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies: A Reader. London: SCM Press, 2004.
MacArthur, John. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2013.
Marty, Martin E. Modern American Religion, Volume 1: The Irony of It All: 1893-1919, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Nelson, Douglas J. For Such A Time As This: The Story of Bishop William J. Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival. England: University of Birmingham, 1981.
Newman, Joe. Race and the Assemblies of God Church, Youngstown, NY: Cambria, 2007.
Palmer, Phoebe, and Thomas C Oden. Phoebe Palmer: Selected Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.
Parham, Charles F. A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Baxter Springs, KS: Apostolic Faith Bible College, 1902.
Parham, Charles Fox and Sarah E. Selected Sermons of the Late Charles F. Parham and Sarah E. Parham, ed. Robert L. Parham. Baxter Springs, KS: Apostolic Faith Bible College, 1941.
Parham, Sarah E. The Life of Charles F. Parham. Reprint ed., Birminham, AL: Commercial Printing Co., 1977
Poloma, Margaret M. The Charismatic Movement: Is There a New Pentecost? Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1982.
Raser, Harold E. Phoebe Palmer, Her Life and Thought. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 1987.
Studebaker, Steven M. Defining Issues in Pentecostalism: Classical and Emergent. Vol. 1. Theological Studies Series. Hamilton, ON: McMaster Divinity College Press, 2008.
Synan, Vinson. The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997.
Wacker, Grant. Heaven Below. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.
Waldvogel, Edith Lynn. The 'Overcoming Life': A Study in the Reformed Evangelical Origins of Pentecostalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1977.
ENDNOTES  Studebaker, Defining Issues in Pentecostalism, 13-15; Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 4 – Goff is the standard scholarly biography for Charles F. Parham.  See Poloma, The Charismatic Movement, 7-8; Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism, 19-23  See Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in America. Synan is a Pentecostal writer.  See Waldvogel, The Overcoming Life, 14-148  As quoted in Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 12-13  See Nelson, Douglas J. For Such A Time As This: The Story of Bishop William J. Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival. England: University of Birmingham, 1981. Douglas argues that the movement originated primarily in the breakdown of racial and class barriers.  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 14-15  See Donald Gee, Wind and Flame – online: http://www.revival-library.org/catalogues/pentecostal/gee.html also Carl Brumback, A Sound From Heaven, 55-61.  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 9-11  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 10-11  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 16-17; see Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, VI, 10  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 11-12  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 15-16; Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement, 12  Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement, 12  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 14-15; Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement, 13  Eusebius, Church History, V 16, Series 2, I, pg 231; Also see Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series: Volume I, Oak Harbor, WA: Logos, 1997, Book V. Chapter XVI. The Circumstances Related of Montanus and His False Prophets  Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement, 15  Origen, Against Celsus, 7.8  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 16  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 17  See Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, VI, 10  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 18  Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement, 17  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 18-19  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 41  Anderson, An Introduction, 23  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 42  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 42  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 44  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 44  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 14; See also Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, 1902. 296-297, 409, 422.  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 44; See also Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 22  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 43  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 47; See also Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 22  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 1  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 43-44  Dayton, Theological Roots, 45; Wesley "makes the distinction, insisting, 'Indeed I do not mean, that Christians now receive the Holy Ghost in order to work miracles… but… in order to be filled with the fruits of that blessed Spirit.'  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 2  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 3  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 5-6  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 6-7  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 7; see also Anderson, An Introduction, 25-26  Gewehr, The Great Awakening in Virginia, 153-155  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 10  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 11  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 11-12  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 14  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 45-46  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 14-15; see also Finney, Memoirs of Reverend Charles G. Finney, New York: 1876.  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 15-16  See Raser, Harold E. Phoebe Palmer, Her Life and Thought. Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 1987 and Palmer, Phoebe, and Thomas C Oden. Phoebe Palmer: Selected Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 17-18  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 19-21  Poloma, The Charismatic Movement, 8  Dayton, Theological Roots, 79, 90  Dayton, Theological Roots, 88  Dayton, Theological Roots, 89  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 23  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 25-26  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 26-28  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 30-33  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 34-37  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 37-38  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 47  Anderson, An Introduction, 30  Anderson, An Introduction, 31  Anderson, An Introduction, 32  Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, 41-43  Anderson, An Introduction, 33  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 17  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 17  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 22  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 22  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 185-186; Parham, A Voice , 19  Parham, A Voice, 12  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 25  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 27  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 28  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 28-33  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 33-35  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 36  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 38-39; See also Parham, The Life of Charles F. Parham., 32-33. When his friend Ralph Gowell died, Parham blamed himself for his lack of faith to save his friend and determined his ministry would be one of salvation both from sin and sickness.  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 42-43  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 44; See Parham, Selected Sermons, 44  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 54-57  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 57-61; also see Anderson, An Introduction, 33-34  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, 24-28; Parham, Life, 51-53; Also for an account by Charles Parham of his initial encounter with tongues See Kay, Pentecostal and Charismatic, 10-13  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 63-69; see also Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 47  MacArthur, Strange Fire, 20  Marty, Modern American Religion, 240-241  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 68-69; also see Kay, Pentecostal and Charismatic, 12 for Parham's reference to reporters and interpreters confirming the tongues. (Kay is a Pentecostal.)  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 69-71  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 72  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 76; MacArthur, Strange Fire, 24  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 79-81  See Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, pictures between pages 144-145 for original photos of these "writings".  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 15-16  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 84-86  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 87-88  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 90-99  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 100-101  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 103; See also Parham, Voice, 81-85  MacArthur, Strange Fire, 273, 24  MacArthur, Strange Fire, 25, 273; Newman, Race and the Assemblies of God, 50; Anderson, An Introduction, 35  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 146; MacArthur, Strange Fire, 25  Wacker, Heaven Below, 232  MacArthur, Strange Fire, 26-27  See Kay, Pentecostal and Charismatic, 13-14 for an account by Seymour of the Baptism of the Spirit.  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, pg 24-28; Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 6-8  Anderson, An Introduction, 41  Anderson, An Introduction, 43  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 48 and Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal, 110  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 49  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 49  Anderson, An Introduction, 44  Poloma, The Charismatic Movement, 9  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 44; Wesley's doctrinal influence on Pentecostalism – second blessing and perfectionism is discussed briefly on pages 44-45  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 13  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 8  Hoekema, What About Tongue-Speaking?, pg 35-37  Culpepper, Evaluating the Charismatic, 50-51  Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest, 11-12  Carson, Showing the Spirit, 178  Proverbs 27:6