SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVES


RECOMMENDED READING: PENTECOSTALISM

GARY W. SUMMERS

   
One of the most popular, current religious errors is that which holds to the idea that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts have continued to this day. In the first half of the twentieth century these ideas were held by those who called themselves Pentecostals. In the sixties the ideology turned into "the charismatic movement" via the vehicle of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International. Now we are in the midst of what is referred to as "the third wave."

Miracles and speaking in tongues lie at the heart of all of these ideologies, although there are differences, disagreements, and variations in each. To provide a history of these matters, an examination of the various doctrines, and a correct interpretation of the Scriptures is the goal of this 1999 Houston College of the Bible lectureship book, edited by David Brown. The material provided will be of great help in understanding, discussing, or refuting the Pentecostal movement.

One of the values of the book is that it contains reviews of significant debates involving our brethren. Among those reviewed are The Wallace-Vaughan Debate (28-44), The Woods-Hicks Debate (257-74), The Woods-Franklin Debate (471-93), The Jackson-Bayer Debate 494-500), and The Highers-Bishop Debate (501-508). The first of these involves the erroneous concept that there is only one person in the Godhead, which is the chief tenet of the United Pentecostal Church, which is also discussed in another chapter (144-58). The debate brother Guy N. Woods conducted with Marvin Hicks occurred in 1975, one year after his debate with Ben Franklin. Hicks was also a "oneness" Pentecostal.

Franklin, however, had at one time been a member of the Lord's church. They debated whether or not Holy Ghost baptism and miracles are in the church today. He and other former members of the Lord's church are noticed in a review of the book, The Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Churches of Christ Today (446-62).

The last two debates focused on, in addition to miracles, whether or not baptism was valid unless the name of Jesus was specifically used at the time. The United Pentecostal Church will not accept baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Also included in the book are chapters by Thomas B. Warren on "The Philosophical Background of Pentecostalism" and Gus Nichols on "Jesus as a Miracle Worker," both of which had previously appeared in issues of the Spiritual Sword. Brother Nichols' article contains a catalog of Jesus' Miracles (469-70).

One might think that Pentecostals are all in agreement on essential matters of faith, but they clash loudly. In "Contradictions in the Various Doctrines of Pentecostals," attention is paid to the disagreement about tongues themselves. The first Pentecostals of this century believed that they were actually speaking in foreign languages; modern advocates have given up that idea and say that their "tongues" are a special prayer language (396-402). A second discrepancy involves a supposed "second work of grace," which renders one incapable of sin (allegedly). A third problem involves the nature of miracles. And as already suggested, they cannot agree if there are one or three in the Godhead.

"Where is the Evidence For Miracles Today?" takes a look at the foundation of the Pentecostal claims. Surprisingly, some brethren are now defending Pentecostal ideas. In fact, the first chapter of this book is devoted to "Rick Atchley's Keynote Speech at Jubilee '98." Atchley is as much of an embarrassment to brethren in Fort Worth as the Jubilee is to faithful brethren in Nashville. When one reads his closing prayer at the "Jubilee," which includes such expressions as "let God right now put something on your heart," one wonders what difference there is between him and a denominational preacher. "Give us, Father," he prays, "give us, Father, a, a vision of your plans for us" (2). One can hardly wait to hear about the visions that already-looney brethren will be reporting in the months ahead.

"Pentecostalism Undermines the Authority of the Bible" is a crucial study; we all need the solid footing of the authority of the Scriptures if we are serious about pleasing the Father and living for Jesus. An excellent exposition of the Scriptures is set forth in various chapters: "What Do 1 Corinthians 13:9-13, Ephesians 4:8-14, and Romans 12:6-8 Have in Common?"; "What Is the Meaning of 'That Which Is Perfect'?"; and "What Does 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 Teach?" Various portions of certain manuscripts also consider the passages mentioned above as well as Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14.

Another false plank of this theology is "Pentecostalism--The Doctrine of Direct Divine Illumination." A smattering of quotations is listed below (without the authors' comments) as food for thought:

Wesley linked enlightenment (illumination) of the Spirit with inspiration.

Luther also claimed there was a direct operation (illumination) of the Holy Spirit to aid the believer to interpret the Scriptures.

Accordingly, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Word can do nothing. From this, also, it is clear that faith is much higher than human understanding. And it will not be enough for the mind to be illumined by the Spirit of God unless the heart is also strengthened and supported by his power (200).

Surely, the dangers of such theology are apparent. Believing oneself to be inspired, or thinking one has a special understanding of the Scriptures (due to his private illumination), or feeling that he possesses some measure of additional strength that others lack are nothing more than apostasy looking for a place to happen. This chapter contains a wealth of information that the child of God will find useful.

Not unnoticed is the element that emotionalism plays in the various forms of Pentecostalism. Two chapters deal specifically with the priority given to feelings over the objective Word (84-97, 98-109).

"Experiences Are Not Authoritative" takes a Scriptural look at one of the root falsehoods of Pentecostalism. In this, as well as other chapters, there is an appropriate emphasis on the Word of God.

"Atheists and Pagans Can Speak Gibberish" does not sound too flattering as a title, but there is a review and an analysis of tongues-speaking claims as found in John Sherrill's popular book, They Speak With Other Tongues. No one tries to put words into their mouths (pardon the pun); those who practice the "gift" are allowed to make their own case for themselves. It is affirmed in this chapter that what is called "tongues-speaking" today is a psychological phenomenon rather than a spiritual one. Historical facts and current research are cited.

Another important emphasis of the book is seen in the titles of the following chapters: "Miracles in the Old Testament," "The Design and End of Miracles," "The Miracles of the Apostles," and "Nine Miraculous Gifts." Understanding what the Scriptures teach on the subject is crucial in understanding the claims of the various Pentecostal groups today. Several definitions are provided, along with fundamental Biblical principles regarding this subject.

"You Can't Have the Tongues Without the Snakes" points out another division among Pentecostals: most do not think they are obligated to handle snakes, but some do. In this case, however, tragic physical consequences frequently follow this practice. All Pentecostal doctrine results in tragic spiritual consequences.

Following are a few quotes from the book:

There are two baptisms spoken of here, not one! The baptism of the Holy Spirit applied to one class of people while the baptism of fire applied to another class (185).

Brother Lucado was highly praised and endorsed by the FGBMFI speaker and by those who were hosting the book display (224).

Is it not amazing how many of today's "change agents" have also advocated the discarding of doctrine? The only difference between them and the charismatics is that instead of offering us in its place this "subjective Holy Spirit experience," they grant us in exchange their marvelous human wisdom (362).

It would be unfair to accuse every charismatic convert of insincerity, but it is just as difficult to accept that all who embrace emotional extremism believe everything they say and do (454).

The reader will profit from this book tremendously; he or she will be much better equipped to discuss these matters with family members, friends, or fellow workers. The cost of the book is $16.00 (525 pages); it may be ordered from Valid Publications, Houston College of the Bible, and other brotherhood book dealers.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "RECOMMENDED READING: PENTECOSTALISM (3/28/99)."


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