Where Pentecostalism came from (PART 3)

The Holiness movement

“Pentecostalism is an offshoot of the Holiness movement.”[1] The Holiness movement originated in America in the 1840-50s when Methodism's “second blessing” emphasis spread to America. The movement began with the motive of preserving and spreading Wesley's doctrine of entire sanctification and Christian perfection.

American Holiness preachers began emphasising two “crises” in the process of salvation. The first experience of conversion brought justification, where one was freed from the condemnation of sin. The second experience of “full” salvation brought “entire” sanctification, where one was freed from the flaw in moral nature that caused sin. [2] However the movement eventually reformed Wesleyan theology on the “second blessing.”

Firstly, Wesley's notion of a second blessing developed into the notion of a second experience of Spirit baptism. Phoebe Palmer and John Inskip were leaders in the movement who taught that the second work of grace (sanctification) took place throught a second blessing of Spirit baptism. Though the focus remained to be the sanctified life, new scriptural imagery was employed such as the “outpouring of the Spirit,” “baptism in the Spirit,” and the “tongue of fire.” Although the Holiness movement's teachers did not stress charismatic phenomena (speaking in tongues was not mentioned, for example), they did emphasize a conscious experience of baptism in the Spirit.

Many arose at this time within and without the Methodist circuit teaching about the nature of the second work of grace, and there came a slow shift to “instant empowerment.” Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) [3] is an example. He came from within Presbyteriansim, but was influenced greatly by Nathaniel W. Taylor's form of Arminianism (New Haven Theology) and Wesley's belief in “entire sanctification.” Finney developed a theology (Oberlin Theology) that showed remarkable parallels to Methodism. He emphasised a second and more mature stage in the Christian life. In his words, a “higher and more stable form of Christian life was attainable, and was the priviledge of all Christians.” [4] Sometimes referred to as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” Finney taught that Spirit baptism was the second work of grace that provided divine empowerment to achieve Christian perfection. [5] He stressed the need for perfect commitment rather than perfect sinlessness. He taught that Christians were taught to “tarry” (Luke 24:49, KJV) for the promised baptism in the Spirit which would break the power of sin in their lives and usher them into the Spirit-filled life. Also, according to Joel 2:28, this gift of the Spirit would enable prophecy for the last days. Finney's teaching contributed to the Holiness Movement and therefore indirectly to Pentecostalism.

The Keswick movement provides another example of where the shift in emphasis to Spirit empowerment in the second blessing became apparent during this time. The Keswick movement began in Great Britain in 1874 (at the annual “Convention for the Promotion of Practical Holiness”). It had its origins in the evangelistic campaign of Dwight L. Moody in 1873-4 who emphasized the need for the Spirit's empowerment for Christian service and entertained the idea of Spirit baptism as a second blessing of the Spirit's power. The convention also began under the influence of American writers such as Asa Mahan, who promoted Charles Finney's theological distinctives about the Spirit and Revival (Oberlin Theology). [6] English speakers at this convention (who were more in tune with Finney and Moody's shift on Wesleyan theology) began emphasizing the “deeper life” rather than holiness because they believed sin could not be eradicated, but rather counteracted by victorious living through the Spirit. They also taught a distinct Spirit experience subsequent to conversion. This helped change the interpretation of Spirit baptism from sinless perfection to an ongoing victorious Christian life. They spoke of the “fullness of the Spirit” as the “higher” or “deeper” life. They also spoke of four doctrines of the movement after A. B. Simpson formalized and stressed his four basic doctrines: salvation, baptism in the Spirit, divine healing, and the second coming of Christ. [7]

During this period many publications were produced to teach seekers how to receive an “enduement of power” through an experience of the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion. Many testimonies were given to emotional experiences that accompanied the “second blessing,” some shouting for joy, others weeping with surpassing peace.

The third development within the Holiness movement is with regard to what is now known as “restoration theology.” Many within the Holiness movement began to believe that “Spirit baptism fully restored the spiritual relationship that Adam and Eve had with God in the Garden of Eden.” [8] This is related to the predominant expectation of an imminent premillenial second coming of Christ. Teachers in the movement exphasised a “premillenial rapture” of the Church. This was first promoted by John Nelson Darby, founder of Plymouth Brethern. With this Holiness movement teachers encouraged the expectancy of a restoration of the New Testament church as a sign of the end of the church age.

As professor of Church History at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Gary McGee said about this period, “Nothing but unbelief now could prevent the New Testament Church from being reestablished in holiness and power.” [9]

Fourthly, the Holiness movement brought an emphasis on immediate healing by faith. Most Christians in the Holiness movement in the nineteenth-century assumed that speaking in tongues ended in the Early Church, but other gifts such as healing and miracles were still available to Christians. Ministries that emphasised prayer for the sick gained attention in America. Belief in the miraculous power of God to heal the sick immediately by faith found an easy reception in the Holiness movement where belief in instantaneous sanctification or empowerment already existed. Since Spirit baptism brought a restoration of the relationship intended by God in the Garden of Eden, “the higher life in Christ could also reverse the physical effects of the Fall, enabling believers to take authority over sickness.” [10]

A. B. Simpson and A. J. Gordon were among those who began teaching healing in the atonement. Much of their belief was based upon Isaiah 53:4-5 where they taught that Christ provided healing in the atonement by also becoming not only our “sin-bearer” but also our “sickness-bearer.” In 1864 the doctor R. Charles Cullis built his first “healing home” where the sick would be treated with prayer rather than with medicine. In 1900 the Autralian healer Alexander Dowie built “Zion City” near Chicago to bring “leaves of healing” to the nations.

We've covered a lot of ground in the last three articles (a period of almost two hundred years.) By way of summary Pentecostalism has its roots in the eighteenth-century Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification, which taught that sanctification involves a “second blessing” as an experience of the Spirit distinct from conversion. Then in the nineteenth-century the Irvingites spread a charismatic eschatology which taught that the period prior to the second coming of Christ would see an end-time outpouring of the Spirit, accompanied by a restoration to the Church of the sign gifts such as tongues and healing. Wesleyan doctrine also spread to America in this century where it inspired the Holiness Movement, which reformed Wesleyan theology on the “second blessing” by teaching that Spirit-baptism was a second experience to miraculously empower Christians.

That brings us right to the verge of the twentieth-century and the time in history immediately prior to the birth of Pentecostalism in 1906. So in our next article we'll talk in more detail about this period at the turn of the nineteenth-century and how the historical situation encouraged the appearance of Pentecostalism.

More on this topic

Why Pentecostalism began

(PART 2) Where Pentecostalism came from - The legacy of Edward Irving

(PART 1) Where Pentecostalism came from - The theology of John Wesley

- -

[1] Richard. V. Pierard (Ph.D., University of Iowa), “Holiness Movement, American”, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed., Paternoster Press, 2001, p. 565.

[2] Ibid., p. 564.

[3] C. T. McIntire (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania), “Finney, Charles Grandison”, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed., Paternoster Press, 2001, p. 452.

[4] Mark A. Noll (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University), “Oberlin Theology”, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed., Paternoster Press, 2001, p. 851.

[5] Gary B. McGee (Ph.D., Professor of Church History, Chair, Bible and Theology Department at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), Systematic Theology, Chapter 1 “Historical Background”, Logion Press, 1995, p. 12.

[6] Stephen Barabas, “Keswick Convention”, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed., Paternoster Press, 2001, p. 654.

[7] Gary B. McGee (Ph.D., Professor of Church History, Chair, Bible and Theology Department at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), Systematic Theology, Chapter 1 “Historical Background”, Logion Press, 1995, p. 12.

[8]Ibid., p. 13.

[9] Ibid., p. 13.

[10] Ibid., p. 13. | joe towns: christian discussion on pentecost, charisma, pentecostal and charismatic beliefs, the Bible and Jesus; including the origin and history of pentecostalism, baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, gifts and miracles, divine healing and word of faith, prosperity and wealth, praise and worship, guidance and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJuly 26, 2015

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Thanks for commenting! Please go ahead with the aim of providing helpful discussion or fair criticism. (For other types of comments, please send me an email).

Also, please note that the following apply to all comments:

- All comments are removed periodically to allow for fresh discussion.
- Removed comments are retained by the author.
- Comments may be re-published on this blog by the author with acknowledgment.
- Blog content may be revised following comments.

Thanks for talking Pentecostalism!